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 Art of Love, Art of Death (Magical Girl Nanoha Fanfic) 
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Cherub

Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2005 2:17 pm
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Location: Toronto
Post Art of Love, Art of Death (Magical Girl Nanoha Fanfic)
Disclaimer: No copyright is mine, thus no copyrighted character is.

Art of Love; Art of Death

By Pale Wolf

Chapter One

The King of the Dead

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

Sunday, June 11, New Calendar Year 0076 (2017 CE)
Interdimensional Space
Time-Space Administration Bureau Patrol Cruiser 'Albion'


While she could claim to be pondering the philosophical significance of the dimensional sea and the many worlds within it that they guarded, if she were honest, she was just trying to see if she could figure out the pattern to the constantly roiling purple and black... stuff. She knew there was a technical term, but had never managed to study much interdimensional physics... she'd probably need to hit the books.

"So how are you settling in, Tea?"

Teana Lanster blinked, turning from the viewport to look up to the captain's platform - Captain Amelia Noin, a tallish blonde woman of about twenty-five.

Teana shrugged, brushing her hair back behind her blue uniform - it was a lot easier to manage when tied back, but it felt a lot nicer free. "I suppose all right so far, Captain. I seem to have gotten the hang of my duties. It's not too different from my last posting, to be honest, just a bit more on the analytical side."

Amelia nodded. "And how's the education going?"

Teana looked down. "Not that well. My flight skills are... iffy."

"Mm, it's only been a few months. That you have them at all is a good start."

"Thank you, Captain."

Amelia chuckled. "Am I butting in? I've been told many a time that I have a bad habit of sticking my nose in other peoples' business."

Teana shook her head. "No, not at all, Captain! I just believe I'm still too inexperienced to merit that praise."

Amelia sighed - it was such a pronounced sigh that she had to be exaggerating it. "You know, you're allowed to call me Amelia, the Enforcer staff isn't really-"

"Sorry to interrupt, Captain, but I've got something." That was the sensor operator on this shift, William Cadrel.

Amelia sighed again - not exaggerated this time - and shifted her attention to Cadrel's position in the crew pit. Teana turned to him as well. "Go ahead."

"It's a large mass signature - to the bow, on the port side and passing to starboard. Seems to be a ship." He tossed it up on the main viewscreen - there was no visual yet, just a computer representation, a small blob racing across the front arc of the ship.

Amelia hummed. "Well now. What do you think, Tea? No reference just yet."

Teana frowned, cupping her chin. The rangefinder said it was about a hundred vecs away... "The rate it's closing at is way too high... that's well beyond TSA regulation speeds. Either criminal or non-administrated... and a signature we can pick up at this range means it's fairly large for a ship that fast. Eclair-class, from the Argene Theocracy?"

Amelia snapped her fingers. "So close! You're right on it being above regulation speeds, but it's not an Eclair - it's a bit faster than that. And I cheated on this a little bit and checked it on my own monitor, but the magical readouts are a bit too high for an Eclair - the Argene don't use magical reactors or engines. Still, very good job, extreme long-range sensor signatures are very hard to read and the Eclair has a very similar mass shadow."

Teana bowed her head. "Thank you ma'am."

"Could you call Enforcer Hallaoun up here? Tell her there's a faster-than-regulation Teufel moving across our bow. They probably haven't picked us up yet, we don't generate as large a mass shadow."

Teana tsked. A Teufel - old Velkan-design ship, but the fastest thing in interdimensional space. With a quick thought, she composed the message and sent it more or less verbatim down to her commander - who was, thankfully, awake right now. Shari was the one sleeping at the moment.

Fate sent back her acknowledgement, and Teana turned her attention back to the viewscreen. Partially, at least, she was also having Cross Mirage look up the Teufel to refresh herself on it.

"Still... what's a Teufel doing out here...? And at that speed... it's trying to get somewhere in a rush."

Teana pursed her lips. "Well... Teufels are popular among smugglers... Mister Cadrel, can you pick up any pursuit?"

The sensor operator shook his head. "Nothing. There are no recorded hazards back that way in any reasonable range, and there's nothing else on the scanners just yet. At their speed... anything we can't detect wouldn't be able to detect the Teufel either."

Amelia frowned, leaning her head on her palm. "This is the clear zone, there is no sentient life for a thousand vecs, so they can't be rushing on a delivery, either..."

"Maybe a criminal operation, or a hideaway? They tend to love uninhabited worlds like we've got out here." Cadrel suggested.

Teana shook her head, though most of her attention was on the Teufel information Cross Mirage had brought up, projecting as a small 'screen' in front of her. "It's going port to starboard, right? Starboard is closer to the main bulk of administrated worlds, so if they're going there, that puts them closer to authorities. A hideout would go towards the center of the clear zone, that's pretty much just non-advanced planets and empty land."

Amelia nodded. "They could be leaving their hideout, but if so, you'd think they would be saving the energy for blowing past border guards, not wasting it in an all-out dash in empty territory. That's going to redline their engines fast."

Teana's eyes widened, and she looked up from her view window. "Um... Captain?"

"Hm?"

"It's not redlining."

Amelia blinked, straightening up. "What do you mean? That speed is redline for a Teufel, isn't it?"

Teana nodded. "It is, but... look at the heat signature we're getting. That's fairly cool - I just checked, and that's about how hot a Teufel runs at normal cruise speed."

Amelia whistled. "That is definitely not standard-issue. Someone's been doing some aftermarket modifications."

"Good job, Teana," a new voice commented.

Teana flushed slightly. "You heard, Fate?"

Enforcer Fate T. Hallaoun smiled as she stepped onto the bridge. "Of course. I'm glad you didn't wait for me to do some analysis of your own. What do you think it is?"

Teana could hear that 'I know the answer, but this is training' tone in her voice... ah well, she'd already been wrong once about this ship. "If I had to guess, I'd say that someone improved the efficiency of the mana reactor so it can put out this amount of power without strain... and the engines, so they can take the power put through them. But a reactor jacked up like that wouldn't last for long, so we'd be right back to the redlining problem... So I think it's a Suvota Compact ship. They're the experts at reactor technology, and a reactor like that should be within their normal parameters."

Fate nodded, walking up to stand beside Teana. "While I can't say whether or not you're correct, I can say that you've made the same guess I have. A lot of Suvota ships built around the dawn of the new calendar used foreign hulls with their own domestic reactors swapped in - the end result is actually a fairly good ship, after some more dedicated modification goes into it."

"That design policy is because of the civil war they had around then, right? I doubt they'd be able to get a hold of advanced shipyards in that kind of situation, and a quick kludge at least lets them put something in the air."

"You're right. Of course... the question remains why a Suvota ship is approaching the TSA side of the clear zone. Diplomatic messenger, perhaps? Amelia, can we trail them?"

Amelia shrugged. "Only if they stop pretty soon, if they run out of our detection range we'll never find them again and there's no way we can keep up. Andrew, bring us around on 80 mark 13 for one minute, then level off to 80 mark 20. And bring engines to full, let's keep after them as long as we can."

Teana did a quick calculation in her head. The listed course should bring the Albion slightly 'above' the Teufel's path (without a visual they didn't know the Teufel's orientation, so for all they knew they were actually below it or to the side, but at the least the Teufel was below Albion - the XV-class cruisers were harder to detect from beneath), and then following. It wasn't quite parallel, though, Albion would be crossing slightly portward to try and get closer to the ship.

Fate nodded. "Thank you. It's worth a try, and I want to see what they're up to."

"They're not going to like TSA ships snooping around their business," Amelia warned.

"True, but then maybe they shouldn't be doing that business within spitting distance of the TSA's administrated worlds."

Amelia snickered. "Right enough on tha-"

"Another reading, captain!" Cadrel shouted out, putting it up on the viewscreen. The first thing Teana could think was 'large'... the signature positively dwarfed the Albion, and it was moving faster. There was still no visual, but... sheer size said a lot.

Amelia's face went slack. "... Fate, that's a Sakhalin-class battlecruiser."

"Yes... it is..."

"Joking aside, I'm not getting close enough to piss off a Sakhalin. That thing can eat Albion for breakfast and go back for seconds, thirds, and ninths."

... Somehow, the pictures Teana had seen of the Sakhalin - the pride of the Suvota Naval Service, the most powerful warship class in the dimensional sea - hadn't quite gotten across how big it was. And this was just a glimpse on sensors at extreme range...

Fate nodded faintly. "Don't worry... we won't... Hm..."

Cadrel licked his lips, raising a hand like he was in class. "Uh, Captain, Enforcer?"

"Yes, William?"

"I've got a possible ID on the Sakhalin. Helm got us onto a good course, and I was able to pick up the IFF. The signal quality's not very good right now, but the database says 80% of the signal is a match for SX-005 Aigaion."

Amelia hissed softly.

Fate closed her eyes.

Teana blinked. "Um... Fate? Captain? Am I missing something...?"

Fate opened her eyes and looked over at Teana. "Not something they teach in Enforcer courses, so don't worry about having missed it... It's not really within our regular duties, more diplomatic and military. Aigaion is the flagship of Admiral Alaya."

Amelia leaned forward. "Alaya is the commander of Strigon - a Special Parliamentary Services naval squadron. Alaya is something like the Suvota Parliament's hatchet-man."

Fate nodded. "She's a bit young for a Suvota admiral, but absolutely trusted. Parliament - specifically, Prime Minister Zheleznyj - sends her to take care of the especially sensitive tasks. Black operations, covert diplomacy... when discretion and possible firepower are required, SPS squadrons are sent out, and Alaya's Strigon is the foremost among them."

Teana blinked. "But... what could need the attention of someone like that out here? They're not insane enough to attack administrated worlds, especially not with their own ships."

Fate nodded. "Either way... Central command is going to want answers on this... Amelia, sorry, but we're going to have to stay after them."

Amelia nodded. "Right... I can't bring us in much closer than this, though, even if they slow down, so we can't get much precise data. If we get detected they'll either cover up what they're doing before we ever get close enough to see, or just blow us out of the sky."

Fate hummed to herself. "Detected... okay. Don't worry about that. Just keep us after them. When they stop, we'll fly out personally and get a close look."

Amelia blinked, pointing at herself. "We?"

Fate laid a hand on Teana's shoulder. "We."

Teana blinked, whipping her head up to look at Fate. "But... Fate, I'm nowhere near good enough at flying yet... I'd just slow you down!"

Fate nodded. "Don't worry, if you falter I can catch and carry you. But there is something you can do that I can't."

Teana's eyes widened. "You mean...?"

"Right. We can't be seen if we're going to get a close look. I have no expertise in stealth or illusion magic, but if you can cover us, we can get close enough to get a good view of whatever they're doing."

Teana frowned, holding up a finger. "Optic Hide doesn't work against strong scanning, and there's a limit on how much magic it can cover. Forceful movements, drawing a lot of mana, or just them actively searching for us... any of those and we'll be caught."

"Yes, this is risky, and beyond what you're really required to do as an Enforcer's aide, so I won't order you to do this. But..."

"I will," Teana cut her off. "But I just want you to understand I can't guarantee we'll be unseen."

"Better decide if you're sneaking or not soon," Amelia spoke up. "They just stopped."

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

22:17 Sunday, June 11, 2017 CE
Tokyo, Japan, Earth - Non-Administrated World #97


His name was Kanata Shirahime. Though he supposed that wasn't all that important, since he was dying.

He didn't believe in monsters.

Apparently, that one wasn't all that important either, since the death blow - a spike of... something... through his breastbone, shattering his ribcage - had been delivered by one.

Well, he wasn't really that good at biology - he might, in fact, not be dying, but it sure felt like it. Even if it weren't, he could feel nothing below his face. That spike had shot straight through his body, and out the other end - his spine was in at least two discrete pieces, so he was probably paralyzed for life.

He couldn't really do anything other than open his eyes and stare at the building across from him - he was, at the moment, in a standing position, due less to the strength and stability of his legs, and more to the fact that the spike was still there, pinning him to a dumpster like an insect in a collection. He'd never had much taste for that method of storage... he found himself with even less now.

His hearing wasn't working, either, there was a loud ringing filling his ears.

Somehow, he'd never really been expecting to die in alone in a backstreet alley on the way home. Though... the alone part didn't surprise him.

Apparently, he wasn't quite qualified to play the hero. The girl he'd tried to save... well, he'd outlived her, but only because... whatever it was had focused on her after smashing him down, and then just... left. The only evidence it had ever been there, other than the two corpses, was a large smear of black... Kanata presumed it was blood, or at least its equivalent, since it had spurted out, burning his face and arms, when he'd shoved a broken table leg into its... limb. The dumpster and its contents had at least provided a few weapons to make his useless last stand with.

Only he would have the luck of interrupting what he'd thought was a mugging, only to run into a beast out of... he couldn't even get a clear idea of what it looked like.

Just... too many eyes. Too many teeth. Too many eyes with teeth.

And that wonderful image was the last thing he'd ever have in his mind's eye, because his vision was starting to tunnel - just blackness creeping across his peripheral vision, spots of dark crossing his eyes...

With one last sigh, his eyes drifted shut. They were useless anyway, now, so he didn't fight it.

"Well, this isn't really the best you've ever been, has it?"

Kanata's eyes opened... and he blinked. "... Am I hallucinating now?" That was a pretty strong contender, since... he didn't seem to be pinned to a wall. In fact he could hear and speak, and there were no walls in sight, just swirling purple in a completely black background. Beneath his feet was nothing but plain silver, as far as the eye could see. And in front of him was... a young-looking Japanese woman, short-haired and fit, dressed in a brilliant motley of colours, seemingly sewn together from dozens of different-coloured patches.

"That's the question, isn't it?" She bounced up and down on her toes. "Actually, it's not. The real question is, are you okay with this?"

Kanata laughed, sitting down on the silver. "What, is this the afterlife? This my hell?"

"Oh, not yet." She smiled. "I'll ask again: Are you okay with this?"

"What, dying? Failing to save that girl?" Kanata laid back. "The question isn't if I'm okay with it. The question is, what can I do about it?"

"And thus we come to the topic."

Kanata's eyes narrowed, and he focused on her. "If you're going to offer me my life back, no thanks. I don't know if you're the devil or an angel, but what I do know is that I'll die no matter what. The only thing I get to choose is how, and there are a lot of things I won't trade just for my life."

The woman grinned, leaning over to look down into his face. "Devil or angel? Let's not limit ourselves to a two-way street. The true powers have far more interesting concerns than your soul's fate one way or the other."

"That was... a pretty bad answer."

She laughed. "Oh, let me have my fun. Let's put it another way, then. Whether I'm a devil, an angel, or something else entirely, the deal I'll offer you is the same. Are you listening?"

Kanata pursed his lips, levering himself up to a sitting position - the woman stepped back to continue to meet his gaze. "... I'm listening."

"There are a lot of things you won't trade, and I understand that. Really, I do, you humans are so filled with pride."

"... I wouldn't call it that."

The woman waved it off. "Oh, however you want to describe it, I do understand. So I'll tell you up front what you're giving up, and what you're getting." She raised a finger. "First... I don't want your 'soul'. Seriously, what would I do with it, hang it on my mantelpiece?"

Kanata blinked. "You know, I'm not Catholic. I don't believe any soul goes to some outside 'devil'. Hell's in your heart, not some outside place."

"I know, but it's best to get the common preconceptions out of the way... I really don't understand that one, but it's so very, very common..." She shook her head. "Regardless. First, you will have to give up your body. I cannot revive you in your present form."

Kanata frowned. "So... be a floating ghost of some kind?"

"Oh no, I'd give you a replacement. Humanoid enough to go about your daily life with. That is easily within my power. There's one other favour I'll ask of you, but that will come much later."

"... What kind of favour?"

The woman shrugged. "I'd tell you, but to be honest, you'll need to be a great deal more educated than you are now to understand it. I'll tell you when the time comes, and if you don't like it?" She shrugged. "Go ahead and turn me down."

"So... what exactly do you get out of this? I kind of doubt you're helping me out of the goodness of your heart."

The woman smirked. "There's something only you can do. I need you alive to do it. That's all. If you don't want to, you may as well keep the life - do understand, this works entirely by your will."

"... This sounds far too good to be true."

"Well, there's one other cost - you'll have to give up your life as it is now. You'll probably never be able to go home again."

Kanata closed his eyes. "That's not much of a cost..." I guess it's time to give up...

The woman clapped her hands together. "Now! Here's the fun part - what you get out of it. Of course, you live again, with all the fun that entails. But, there's an extra bonus. I'll throw in a companion, and enough strength that you'll never again have to choose whether to walk away, or to give up your life for nothing."

Kanata blinked. "... You're making this sound more and more ominous."

The woman covered her mouth as she giggled. "This isn't a bargain for power, I need you strong so you don't get yourself killed again. Remember that monster?"

Kanata froze.

"Nothing exists in a vacuum. There are more. And not many on Earth with the strength to stop them. I can't do anything more than choose people."

"And you're choosing... me?"

"Why not? You had the courage to face one even without a dollop of power, and you managed to scar it just the same. I can't think of a better choice."

Kanata swallowed heavily, and made the sign of the cross. God, I truly pray that this is the right choice... "... All right."

"Then open your eyes."

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

Sunday, June 11, New Calendar Year 0076 (2017 CE)
Close Orbit, Uninhabited World


Teana was not precisely comfortable right now.

Physically there wasn't really anything wrong, other than the slow wobbling stagger that she presently called flight.

But mood... it was hard not to be intimidated when a black-painted-and-red-trim giant floated overhead, five connected hulls of sharp angles, and long, bladelike curves... That monster wasn't very different from the Cradle in size, and unlike the only time she'd gotten close to that one... this battlecruiser was fully operational, not mostly crippled, sitting quite comfortably in the vastly-upper reaches of the planet's atmosphere.

Teana shivered in its shadow, and tried to increase her speed - she knew Fate was lagging to keep from outpacing her.

'Well... if there's anything on this planet, it isn't in the database. There isn't even life, beyond maybe some fungus,' Fate whispered telepathically - they had to keep the transmission strength down to keep from being detected.

Teana nodded, turning slightly to aim Cross Mirage at the gigantic hulk of a battlecruiser. 'I've got pictures, and I got a glimpse of its registry while we passed across it... It's Aigaion.'

'That's what those Suvota letters were? Well, you're better at languages, so I'll take your word for it. Do you have any idea where the Teufel went?'

'I haven't seen it... I can't tell if the Sakhalin has dropped any shuttles or teleported anyone, either.' It had taken them some time to get close enough to fly out of Albion, and the Teufel's mass shadow had essentially disappeared off their sensors as soon as it slowed down. And between Teana's iffy flight skills and the need to move gently, it had taken them even more time to get from Albion's standoff position to the battlecruiser's position in orbit. When they'd gotten out to Aigaion, the Teufel was nowhere in sight.

Fate nodded. 'Okay. Let's move around the perimeter and see if we can get a trace.' She gently swung out, moving away from Aigaion, her barrier jacket's white cloak rustling in the planet's atmosphere.

Teana moved to follow... and then gasped as she suddenly began falling. She could already see the hole in the flight spell... she hadn't been applying enough mana along point 314 on the y-axis and it'd given way as soon as she tried maneuvering, shattering the whole thing... and dropping her from near-orbital altitude.

Fate's expression was plain...

Teana's eyes widened, and she sent a quick telepathic message. 'I've got time! Don't move too fast or you'll break the Hide!' Then she was focusing on rebuilding her spell. She did have at least a few kilometers of fall to get it right, but she'd rather not use up any more of that than she had to.

Fate looked... very unhappy with Teana's request, but seemed to have come to a similar conclusion, that Teana wouldn't die if she gave her a few minutes to handle it herself and if she couldn't, Fate could still intervene. She still followed her aide down, though she kept the speed low enough not to break the invisibility spell Teana had laid over them.

Teana's long hair whipped past her face, filling her vision with strands of orange as she fell, the winds lashing it every which way. She couldn't feel much more through her barrier jacket, though the complete obscuring of her vision was annoying... maybe she shouldn't have grown it out.

Still, she didn't need to see right now, this work was all mental. She rebuffed Cross Mirage's attempt to help - she needed to master this sooner or later, and with a fall this long and Fate to catch her if she failed, these were pretty close to the safest conditions possible to figure out how to repair a flight spell.

Thread it like that... put in that much mana, keep it circulating... There!

Of course, now that her flight spell was repaired, she was still falling. She had to slow down gently or she might break the spell again... so she slowly... slowly... applied just the slightest touch of upwards thrust to herself.

It took almost as long as actually fixing the spell, before she fully stopped falling. She was almost lying back on a cloud.

Only then, did she dare twist her position in midair so she stood upright. As Fate descended to stand next to her, Teana shook her head wildly, before giving up and bringing her hands up to part her hair, getting it out of her face and back where it belonged.

'Teana, are you all right?'

And then her jaw dropped. 'Uh... I dunno if I just found the Teufel, but I just found something.' She raised a finger to point over Fate's shoulder.

Fate blinked and turned around. 'Oh. My.'

'Something', in this case, was... it was hard to really tell what it was. It was like a gigantic wall of unpainted steel... the most immense ship they had ever seen, stretching across the sky for at least ten kilometers. The shape was fairly irregular, somewhat like a carelessly-sculpted egg, and it didn't seem to be moving much, but...

Teana regained her wits first, largely because she'd lost them a bit sooner. 'This... wasn't on the database, right?'

'I... think I'd have remembered it. Is it even possible to make a ship that size...?'

'Not in atmosphere, I think...'

'Maybe it's a floating city...? I think we can guess what they came for. Let's get closer.'

Teana nodded faintly, and slowly started accelerating towards it.

The flight took some time, but was largely uneventful. Fate spotted the Teufel some distance overhead as they passed... it seemed to be hovering some distance away from the immense blob of steel... but she'd thought the huge object was most likely more worthy of investigation than the Suvota frigate.

They weren't quite there, but they were only perhaps eight kilometers away, when Teana's head jerked up and back. 'Heat source! Seems to be coming from the Aigaion's direction, but... too fast. And...'

'Far too hot...' Fate's eyes widened, as if she'd just figured something out. '...This is a firing range! Move!'

Teana blinked, but fortunately Fate wasn't really depending on being listened to - she'd already accelerated to her full, very considerable speed, grabbed Teana, and started shooting away from the vast expanse of metal.

The invisibility spell was basically useless now, so Teana dropped it... and winced when she figured out what Fate had. She had Cross Mirage start recording.

The closer they'd gotten to the gigantic... 'city', for lack of a better term... the more it had seemed... incomplete. The structure was quite solid, and there was a huge amount of magic emanating from it, but it was completely unpainted, crude, immobile... no doors or any moving segments were visible. It was like a massive block of metal had just had a reactor and engines shoved into it, and left there to float - no effort had been put in, no finishing touches, as if to keep costs down... as if it were expendable. The largest target drone Teana had ever seen. And that heat source, approaching so fast...

Fate was facing away as she tried to get more speed out, so only Teana, braced in her arms, had a view.

They were already far enough away that whatever had been fired was visible as nothing more than a speck. It neared the gigantic drone so fast... faster than any mage could possibly keep up... Teana snapped her eyes shut, and shouted for Fate to do the same.

And then Teana saw nothing. Or rather... the immense flash of white that seared into her vision, even with her eyes closed, covered up anything there may have been to see. At the same time, a huge blast of heat... they were ten kilometers away, and still she could feel it. Even through her barrier jacket she could feel her skin scorching slightly. And even with her eyes closed and protected by her barrier jacket, it was so bright she thought for a second she could see Fate's bones through her skin...

And then the heat faded. There was... no sound. They were too far away.

It was a little longer before Teana dared to open her eyes, though - her flight had only stumbled a little, not faltered, so she knew Fate had made it through.

The first thing she saw was a roiling mass of flame... orange, and black, massive, devouring the target... and rising into the air... slow... stately...

As the fireball rose, it left something of itself behind... leaving a column of fire below it. With streaks and black clouds, chemicals from the drone, filling the sky around it.

It was somehow... beautiful...

"What... is that...?" Fate muttered from beside her - apparently she'd twisted to see.

"I... have no idea."

They just watched for another moment... and then Teana's eyes widened.

There was a ripple in the air... it looked almost like a clear ring steadily growing out from the fireball, streaked with black clouds and... that looked like shrapnel.

"Cross Mirage, time from blast!" She wasn't waiting for an answer, though, already bringing up and reinforcing a barrier as best she could. Thankfully, her barriers had progressed a lot better than her flight had, in her recent training.

"Seventeen seconds." And the fireball still hadn't faded...

Fate got it too, and forced up a shield. "Load Cartridge, Bardiche."

At a ten-kilometer range, it took about twenty-eight seconds for sound to reach.

Teana, for her part, blew every cartridge she had loaded, and quickly slapped another clip into place.

Sound... and the concussion wave.

There was an immense cracking sound, so loud even through her defences it hurt her ears, and then, to put it best, the air slapped her in the face - it wasn't unlike getting whacked by Nanoha's bombardment spells in training, except that this was smashing straight through Fate's and her own cartridge-amplified defensive spells to do it.

Fate's arm was slammed into Teana's chest so hard she was pretty sure it would leave a bruise even after the barrier jacket reduced the impact, and they both went flying across the sky, losing their grip on each other...

Even Fate couldn't really handle controlled flight for a moment, so Teana started falling again.

Which turned out to be a good thing when a twisted, sharp-looking chunk of metal about the size of her flew through the air above her. That definitely would've been death.

Since she was falling, facing up again, Teana had a view of something that Fate did not. Two humanoid shapes in white, dropping rapidly and controlled through the black toxic cloud, straight at them.

"Fate! Above!" She called in both telepathy and through voice, but... she couldn't hear even her own words through the ringing in her ears, and the telepathic call seemed to be cutting through a loud hissing... jamming.

The smaller of the two white mages split off from the other's course, dropping towards Teana - her flight was perfectly controlled, and Teana could see the deep blue glow on her staff-head, pointed straight at her, as the attacker approached.

Teana gritted her teeth, and detonated a cartridge - the raw power solution to getting her flight back up was most definitely a kludge, but it was better than getting shot.

As a quick series of small blue darts came in, Teana's flight started up again and she jerked to the left, letting the burst pass harmlessly beside her.

The attacker's course shifted, and she dropped down towards Teana, the sharp butt of her staff thrusting forward.

It wasn't as quick as usual, but Cross Mirage heard her mental command and created the second gun in her left hand, shifting it into dagger mode, just in time for Teana to sweep it up and deflect the staff.

Still wasn't enough to defend her against the Suvota's mass, though, as the small girl in white slammed headlong into Teana, an angled blue barrier flickering into existence and cutting through Teana's own. And they were falling, Teana unable to control her flight, and the Suvota girl not caring to.

The staff was coming around again, blue crackling at the end of it. Teana spared a thanks for Subaru dragging her through unarmed combat training (though she'd never admit it out loud, of course) and brought her right leg up to kick the Suvota away to the left... actually, given her poorly-anchored flight, Teana probably actually kicked herself away, but either worked.

And for a moment, they stood there... well, fell there, since both were still dropping.

Teana on one side, Cross Mirage's main body held in her right hand and aimed at her opponent, the duplicate in dagger mode up in her left hand and held across herself defensively, long hair flying upward in the wind.

On the other, was a small, young girl, dressed in a white barrier jacket edged with black. Mid-length silver hair tied back in two high ponytails by large black ribbons, green eyes, a long angular staff - the bottom was sharpened, while it split at the top into a wide V-shaped pair of prongs - held in her hands and aimed straight at Teana, blue crackling at its tip. She looked maybe Caro's age. But Teana could see the slight point to the girl's ears. She wasn't human, she was a Suvota... given how long-lived the Suvota tended to be, this apparent ten-year-old was probably actually thirty, an experienced combat mage.

The Suvota fired first, unloading a burst of darts into near-point-blank range.

So much for negotiations... Teana fixed her aim slightly and fired as fast as she could. Her orange bullets didn't quite come out as fast as the Suvota's darts, but they all hit, demolishing the darts before even one connected.

The Suvota looked... a little surprised, but not too disappointed by the failure to score a hit, and darted in again, stabbing with the sharp end of the staff.

Teana had to get some breathing room... if she didn't get her fall under control in less than a minute, she was probably going to smash into the ground.

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

Sunday, June 11, New Calendar Year 0076 (2017 CE)
Upper Atmosphere, Uninhabited World


Fate hadn't noticed the attack at first - she'd been too busy looking for Teana. Her sensor spells weren't working... but the instinct of a ten-year combat veteran was.

Even as she'd done it, she wasn't quite sure why she'd swung Bardiche backwards, but as she turned around to follow it... well, she figured it out.

Right behind her was a calmly-flying Suvota mage - or cossack, as their term went, who had apparently pulled back at the last second to avoid Fate's instinctive strike. She wasn't that tall, maybe eighteen in appearance (which meant, Fate knew, that she was at least in her fifties), dressed in a white Suvota-style barrier jacket, edged and trimmed with light blue. A little different from standard issue, though... the main torso segment and the white leggings clung tighter to her body than usual, and a short blue-and-white mantle and wide-belled double-layered skirt (a bit of a strange one, composed of two alternating layers of triangular... armour plates, maybe, they were unusually stiff) had been added. Green eyes, blue hair tied back in a ponytail by a cheerful yellow ribbon, and a long staff in her hands, with a V shaped notch at the head holding a largeish blue crystal.

Blue looked a little worried about something... a bit distracted. But Fate didn't have time to worry about that, she had to find her aide.

Bardiche clicked into scythe form, the blazing yellow blade appearing even as she darted in and swung it at the Suvota.

The young-looking woman brought her staff around to interpose between the scythe and her body, braced in both hands. But Fate felt the quiver as she hit - Blue's arms had almost given way.

Suvota were on average a great deal weaker than humans, both physically and magically. And Fate was a great deal above average in raw power, Blue wouldn't be able to keep up.

Blue rose quickly, firing a single shooter bolt back at Fate as she moved away.

Fate didn't even need to deflect it, just letting it glance off her barrier as she let her opponent disengage, turning and starting a dash downward. 'Teana! Where are you?! Call in!' The jamming was too heavy for it to get through, but she called anyway.

Then, just as her first dash ended, she felt magical energies forming around her, very fast... On pure reflex, she triggered another Sonic Move, darting to the left as a slightly blueish ripple in the air formed around where she'd just been... in fact, her hand brushed out of it just before it snapped shut.

Fate whirled around. Blue was maybe five hundred meters away already, and aiming her staff directly at Fate.

... A bind? At that distance, and formed that fast?

It looked like Blue was too good to just turn her back to... and wasn't content to let Fate go after Teana, either.

She didn't really want to fight, but... it sure looked like Blue wanted to, and they had been spying on something that the Suvota seemed to want to keep secret. If they didn't fight back, chances were pretty good that she and Teana would be captured, or killed. Just enough to get away. She had to get the report in.

Fate brought Bardiche back up, switching him to Assault form. She'd prefer to fight in close, but binds were a lot easier to form in melee ranges. If she stayed in there, even a Sonic Move might not get her out before the bind snapped shut. Medium range it was.

She raised her left hand, a yellow control ring forming around her wrist and a crackling ball of electricity forming in front of the hand. A Midchildan rune circle spun out under her feet, and then another spun into existence in front of her. The target wasn't moving yet.

"Trident..."

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

Sunday, June 11, New Calendar Year 0076 (2017 CE)
Interdimensional Space
Time-Space Administration Bureau Main Office


Hayate Yagami leaned back in her chair, rubbing her eyes. "Rein, have I ever mentioned how much I hate prophecies?"

The white-haired chibi looked up. "Um, well..."

"Three times in the past week or so, that I've heard," a man mentioned from behind - as he leaned forward to lay a cup of coffee on her desk.

Hayate leaned forward, cupping it in her hands and soaking in the warmth. "Mmmmm, Vice-kun, you're a life-saver."

The marksman smirked slightly. "No, just bored and between deployments. How's it going?"

Hayate held up a finger. "Love Carim. Hate her ability." Vice was technically not cleared to know about Carim's Prophezeien Shriftlich, but Signum had apparently told him at some point - probably to make sure he could keep a better eye on the forwards during the JS Incident a year ago. While technically not quite within regulations, it was more or less an open secret anyway. "Do you have any idea how many lands can be associated with 'ancient crystals'?"

"I'm going to go out on a limb and say 'a lot'."

"There are less inhabited planets that aren't," Reinforce piped up.

Vice chuckled. "Any better luck with the rest of the prophecy?"

Hayate shook her head mournfully. "None whatsoever. Holy land, central lands... we don't even know who it's supposed to be holy and central to. Still... at least Ground Force Command is paying attention now, so we don't need to hold Mobile Six in readiness."

Vice leaned back against the edge of Hayate's research cubicle, crossing his arms. "So why're you looking this up, anyway? I thought the JS Incident was what the prophecy was talking about."

Hayate sighed, leaning back in towards the computer and taking a sip of coffee. Ahh... wakefulness. "So did we. Then this year when she was making her prophecies, the same one came out again."

"Carim doesn't see the past, only the future," commented Vita as she stepped into the room, face barely visible over the huge stack of papers in her hands.

"Gah, you okay with that, Lieutenant?" Vice didn't move to help her, though - last time he'd tried that, years ago, she'd whacked him upside the head with what he was offering to help with (at the time, it was a rather large number of books). He'd wait for a request.

Vita just smirked, hefted them up, and let them drop on the desk with a thunk. "No problems." She turned back to Vice. "Anyway, since the prophecy showed up again, we - meaning Chrono, Carim, Lindy, you know - figure it's still about the future and we just missed the mark."

"Either that, or Prophezeien Schriftlich is on the fritz," Hayate added.

Vice winced. "Need any help other than coffee? Research isn't one of my skills, but I don't have anything else to do until Ground Command finds somewhere to put me."

Vita shook her head. "Nah, just keep an eye out for any dancing dead. Knowing your skills at poetry that's probably the only part you'd get anyway." She hopped up into her chair.

"Harsh, but true. I could recite some of the ones I tried to make for my last girlfriend if you wanted proof."

Hayate laughed. "No, no need, we believe you. The coffee's good though, and any other fetch and carry you've got time for would be great."

Vice raised an eyebrow. "You just want a temporary slave, dontcha?"

"You caught me. Now serve!"

"Yes, yes Mistress," Vice chuckled, waving slightly as he left the room.

Hayate covered a giggle. It was fun to goof off every so often. Then she took a sip of coffee - and it was pretty damned good coffee, Vice must be crazily popular for night and morning shifts - and dove back into the TSA world records. Something specific had to show up...

"You sure it's okay?" Vita spoke up. "To tell him and not the others, I mean?"

Hayate took another sip. "Not really, but... if Nanoha knows the prophecy is probably still in force, you know there's no way we'll get her to take a leave of absence. She still hasn't recovered fully from everything she did in the Cradle, and it's been like half a year... I don't want her to finish herself off."

"What about Fate? I mean, she's an investigator too."

Hayate nodded. "Yup. And remember how good Fate is at lying? Especially to Nanoha?"

Vita's pained expression said all that needed be said.

"Yuuno's better at it, at least when it comes to her health. Which is a good thing, since we might need to dig into the Infinite Library."

Rein's turn to wince. "He still hasn't managed to get that organized yet, has he?"

"Nope. If this turns out to be personal to Nanoha, though... Yuuno will tell her, and there's no stopping her from there. For now, though, since the mighty ferret-man keeps a close eye on Vivio, it's not necessary and he won't risk Nanoha's health by getting her worked up again."

Vita snickered. "One of the best defensive mages in the dimensional sea, and he got himself stuck with all his nicknames commenting on his ferret form."

"The perils of learning shapeshifting." Hayate nodded solemnly. "Okay... back to work."

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

_________________
"There is very little that cannot be solved through the proper application of immense levels of firepower."


Last edited by Pale Wolf on Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Wed Oct 14, 2009 1:27 pm
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Cherub

Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2005 2:17 pm
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Location: Toronto
Post Re: Art of Love, Art of Death (Magical Girl Nanoha Fanfic)
Sunday, June 11, New Calendar Year 0076 (2017 CE)
Lower Atmosphere, Uninhabited World


She needed to get away, fighting a veteran almost twice her age in the air when she could barely fly was suicide, and if she could get away she could try to punch through the jamming and tell Fate she was fine, rather than expect Fate to carry the team and protect her.

The Suvota swirled around the Crossfire Shoot bullets Tea had sent to chase her off, flying down after her... catching up pretty easily, too, Teana's speed was garbage. Those darts were coming out again, but not quite hitting at their current range. Though that was less thanks to Teana's attempts at evasive maneuvers as it was the fact that she couldn't fly straight.

Teana swung her left-hand weapon back, switching it to gun form and firing a few more bullets back at the Suvota. Cross Mirage gave a confirmation report of the spell: "Bullet F." She could hear it, too, the ringing in her ears was mostly dying down.

While the target-seeking bullets gave the Suvota something to chew on, Teana angled her flight upward, popping a pair of cartridges to give it some extra thrust. She needed altitude, potential energy was everything in aerial combat and she was starting to doubt she'd get away from a much faster and more experienced opponent like this.

Flying up through the clouds, her eyes watered - the sun was painfully bright, but with her sensory spells jammed, visual was all she had, so she didn't dare close her eyes.

Cross Mirage reported the Suvota had shot down her bullets and was coming after her again. It'd be nice if she could hide out in the clouds like this, but her path up had left a trail, the Suvota would find her easily... what to do?

'Fate! Can you hear me?!' Nothing. Looked like she was on her own unless the jamming faded... the sky was way too big for her and Fate to find each other at this point, especially if Fate was busy with the other Suvota. And Teana's was on her tail and closing fast... twenty meters now.

"V-Dagger." Teana reversed her flight, dropping back through the cloud at full speed, both her guns switched to dagger mode.

The Suvota's eyes were wide as they slammed into each other, Teana's daggers biting into the Suvota's staff - she'd got it up to block in time, but the Suvota's basic barrier wasn't quite enough to completely deflect Teana's concentrated blades.

The Suvota drew back the staff to protect it, spinning and trying to stab with the sharp end. Teana, though, had switched Cross Mirage back to dual-gun mode, and started firing at point-blank range.

The staff-thrust connected, punching through Teana's barrier and lodging its end in her belly, but it cost the Suvota, as about four magical bullets smashed into her own barrier, crashing it and allowing a fifth to hit her ribcage with a loud 'crack'.

The Suvota gritted her teeth and flew back, away from her opponent, as did Teana. Both were firing at full pace, but while a few bullets and darts glanced off barriers and others shot one another down, as the range grew and both started maneuvering to evade, it was mostly misses... though as Teana jerked her head to the left lest a blue dart lodge itself in her eye, she reflected that the misses still came pretty close.

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

Sunday, June 11, New Calendar Year 0076 (2017 CE)
Upper Atmosphere, Uninhabited World


"... Smasher!" Three wide columns of crackling yellow magic arced out from the point where Fate slammed the charged sphere into the form array in front of her. She still couldn't hear her own words, though.

She'd have really preferred an arrest or the like, but the Suvota Compact was the single largest swathe of space to consistently refuse TSA membership and authority - and had a battlecruiser in orbit. She'd just evoke laughter, if not outright rage. Especially given that she really didn't have much of a case at this point - she had no idea what, precisely, she'd be trying to arrest them outside of her jurisdiction for.

And talking things through... she wanted to. She really wanted to. But it was a little difficult when they'd attacked in the first place (and in honesty... she had been spying on them, justifiable but still espionage), let alone when she was temporarily deaf, and jammed too heavily to get a word out.

And she didn't have time to get through to them socially when her apprentice might be falling to her death, if not fighting more of them.

The three beams arced back together, moving to slam into Blue... but the cossack had dropped, accelerating downward, and the bombardment spell only skimmed her boots. No barrier... understandable, since a Suvota probably couldn't put up a barrier strong enough to really do much against one of Fate's bigger spells anyway.

Blue waved her staff in Fate's direction, unleashing a pale blue, almost-invisible ripple of air - a shooter bolt, Fate thought it was just one, but very, very efficient, almost none of its power was wasted as light.

It was coming in pretty fast, too, but evasion at this range, especially for someone as fast as Fate, was very, very easy, simply a matter of floating around the edge of an imaginary five-hundred meter circle centered on the cossack.

Fate was still a little surprised when the bolt continued after her - in this jamming, a mentally-controlled shooter spell shouldn't be controllable... maybe it was a seeker, like Teana's? Those weren't all that common, and fairly difficult to learn.

It was, however, still only one medium-power magical bullet. For all its efficiency and skill... it still didn't have the punch to do anything. Fate just wrapped a small barrier around her left hand - she could hear an echo that she thought might have been Bardiche's report, that he was starting up Thunder Arm - and punched the bullet from the sky, before dashing in at the Suvota cossack.

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

22:34 Sunday, June 11, 2017 CE
Takamachi Residence, Clanagan, Midchilda - Administrated World #1


"Thanks for the help, Yuuno-kun," Nanoha commented, as she finished putting the paper towels away.

The blonde archaeologist chuckled, rubbing the back of his head a little nervously. "No, it's no problem. Fate's on duty, and Vivio can be a bit of a handful, so..."

"Hey! No fair!"

"Whoops." They turned to the door of the kitchen, where Vivio Takamachi stood, pouting. "I don't mean that in a bad way, you know."

"You guys are the handful. Remember last week?"

Nanoha sweatdropped. "I had free time. I wanted a picture."

Yuuno, for his part, had just linked his hands behind his back and studiously refrained from meeting Vivio's gaze.

Vivio just sighed deeply. "It was embarrassing!"

Yuuno blinked, raising a finger. "Actually, it's the duty of a parent to embarrass their children."

"... Seriously?"

Nanoha nodded solemnly. "Ask any."

Vivio looked a little suspicious. "You'd tell them to answer yes."

Nanoha and Yuuno traded glances. 'Way too precocious.'

'Well, you were pretty precocious yourself... Guess it fits that your daughter is too.'

'I'm sorry, mama, if I was ever this precocious.' Nanoha ducked down to meet Vivio face to face (studiously ignoring Yuuno's quick chuckle at her telepathy). "If you want to ask, I promise, I won't."

Vivio looked up. "... You sure?"

"Absolutely. I'm sure about everything, whether I'm right or not."

Yuuno sweatdropped, knowing just how true that one was. Vivio sweatdropped too, though less from knowing the context and more from having no idea how to respond to a comment like that.

Nanoha tossed in her brightest smile for good measure.

"... Okay."

Yuuno leaned down as well. "I'm going to have to head back for a little while, Vivio. Do you want me to bring anything from the library next time I manage to come?"

Vivio tapped her lip. "Um... fiction."

Yuuno nodded. "I'll make sure to bring a few you'll like."

Nanoha rubbed her neck, working away an ache from this morning - one of her students had improved a bit faster than she'd expected. "Are you heading out soon, Yuuno-kun?"

Yuuno sighed as he stood up. "Going to have to, I need to get some sleep in before a meeting in about ten hours."

"Darn... well... I'll see you later." Nanoha stood as well.

"Might be quite a bit later, my schedule's a little crazy for the next week - you going to be okay?"

Nanoha nodded. "Yeah, I'm on free time right now - my last training group just graduated today."

"Oh? How'd they do?"

Nanoha smiled. "They're off to a decent start. One of them scored a hit on me."

Yuuno whistled. "Nice. Was that the one you were talking about before... Anna Roemer, right?"

"Yeah, it was - she's probably had the most potential I've trained since the Forwards. If they keep up the training programs I showed them, they'll be really good in a while."

Yuuno grinned. "I think it might be more you than them, but maybe I'm biased."

Nanoha chuckled. "I'm not that good, all I can do is bring out their potential."

Vivio looked from Yuuno to Nanoha. "... Wow. Totally missed it. Good luck, Yuuno-papa."

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

Sunday, June 11, New Calendar Year 0076 (2017 CE)
Upper Atmosphere, Uninhabited World


Fate blinked Wait... she'd heard that last attack clearly. "Stop this! We have nothing to fight over!"

Blue halted her rearward flight, cocking her head. "If that were the case, you would not be spying on us."

"A black ops battlecruiser going near TSA worlds to perform a weapons test isn't something to spy on?"

"And how would you have known about the weapons test if you weren't spying in the first place?"

Fate winced. She'd made the best decision she could... and it turned out to be right, but that wouldn't really talk the Suvota down. She wasn't that good with words, what could she say... other than the truth? "... You're right. But fighting over this is pointless, and I have the advantage right now... let's just end this and go home."

Blue raised one eyebrow. "Even if you defeat me, can you do it fast enough to escape? Aigaion has a complement of one hundred and eighty cossacks. And while my apprentice is a little careless, she will at the very least keep yours busy for just as long. As soon as the jamming drops, they will find us."

"But just because you can win-"

"Does not mean I should? A decent point, but my orders are simple - to provide security for the test. You infiltrated the testing grounds without permission, and will be taken into custody. There's no need to worry, with your skills the TSAB is quite likely to give a few minor concessions for your release."

"... So that's it?"

"Well, there is one more thing..." Fate suddenly felt magic building up in the space around her. Another one of those long-range binds.

Fate triggered another Sonic Move, flashing around in a circle and coming around with a downward slash from behind Blue... whose instinct was apparently just as quick as Fate's, since she already had her staff braced in both hands behind her head, blocking the axe-head from connecting, before spinning her body and staff, flinging Fate away.

The Suvota took the time granted by tossing Fate to turn around and properly face her, staff glowing, angular bolts of magic forming around her body. "It seems the disruption effect is starting to fade. Which means..."

Her staff had its own comment: "Probnaya Pulya," in a mechanical, rote tone of voice.

Fate sighed and switched Bardiche to scythe mode. She was going to have to cut all of these down, wasn't she?

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

Sunday, June 11, New Calendar Year 0076 (2017 CE)
Lower Atmosphere, Uninhabited World


Teana swung her right-hand gun forward, and fired a few shots into the Suvota's wide-eyed face. Apparently she wasn't that surprised, though, since she had a reasonably solid barrier up and it stayed up until the Suvota had backed away.

Teana floated back herself... she was kind of getting the hang of this, actually. Far fewer wobbles.

For the moment, neither launched an attack, both heaving for breath.

Teana was nursing the pain in her gut, forming a microbarrier to keep too much blood from pouring out - she lacked the time to use bandages. She was also trying to refrain from throwing up after that last hit.

The younger-looking Suvota, for her part, was taking some time to fix her device - Teana hadn't cut into the main core, just the frame. And Teana caught a flash of pain on her face, and her hand jerking towards her ribcage - she caught herself before fully giving it away, but Teana remembered where she'd scored the hit. A little blood was dripping from her right hip, rolling off the triangular armour plates that composed her 'skirt' from the dagger hit Teana had got at the very start of the fight, but it didn't seem too bad.

Teana considered attacking while the Suvota was at a bit of a disadvantage... but she was just as badly-off, and had no particular care to expose herself to a trap while she was recovering - she know she had set up a couple of trap binds before starting her break, and expected much the same from the Suvota.

Ugh... Now that the adrenaline was fading, Teana's right arm was starting to ache... the problem with blocking blunt impact weapons was that whatever you blocked with still got hit full-force.

The Suvota took a deep breath, and stood up straight. "You can surrender, da? You go down, I not sure I able to catch." Her grammar was iffy and her accent very thick, but it was understandable.

Teana straightened up herself, clenching her right hand to see if that made the ache settle a little... it seemed to. "You could've asked before attacking, you know."

The Suvota shrugged. "You deaf at time. And bomb foul up transmitti... trasni... transmissions."

Teana brought her dagger and gun up. "Well, we wouldn't have surrendered anyway, we didn't do anything wrong."

"That matter for politicians. Soldiers follow order." The Suvota raised her - newly-repaired - staff.

"If that's the way you want it."

The Suvota grinned. "Name Planya."

Teana blinked, and shrugged. Nothing to lose, and it was a fair enough trade. "Teana Lanster."

"Back on clock." Planya brought up her staff, and the tip began glowing dark blue.

Teana switched both of Cross Mirage's bodies to gun mode, and raised them.

"Kalyonaya Strela!" And there was that flurry of darts again.

Teana didn't yell out her own trigger, but Cross Mirage did it for her: "Shoot Bullet."

They traded shots, orange and blue magic lashing out at each other - Planya was trying to shoot at Teana, Teana was shooting down Planya's darts. But even firing at full speed from both guns, she didn't have enough time to get a shot at Planya herself... in fact, she was losing the speed match, the darts were getting steadily closer and closer to her before she hit them.

So Teana leaned back and flew away at full speed. Which wasn't that full a speed, but it was fast enough that Planya's darts were no longer gaining ground on her.

At least, until Planya herself moved after her - she'd stopped firing, though. If she were a typical Suvota, she'd want to save the mana. Since humans had higher average reserves, even though Teana was pretty unspectacular as far as power went, she could probably keep firing longer than Planya could.

Teana turned to face in the direction she was going, and flattened her arms against her torso to minimize drag, increasing her speed just a bit. Her sensors picked up a quick magical buildup behind herself, and she angled to the left as another four dark blue magical bullets shot past her.

Up, up, up! Teana detonated her last two cartridges to put on a burst of speed, climbing straight into the clouds. This time, though, she had a plan, which she put into action as soon as she was above the cloud cover... above the real clouds, anyway, the toxic black ones from the explosion were still there.

Optic Hide. Fake Silhouette. She couldn't reduce her speed too much, a sharp acceleration or deceleration would break her invisibility, but she could slow down a little, sending her illusionary self up ahead of her while she put another clip of cartridges into Cross Mirage. This also wouldn't let her get away, once Planya started actively searching she'd see through Teana's illusions quickly enough. But what it could do...

Planya burst up out of the clouds, not sparing a glance at Teana's real self - why would she, after all? She'd already seen a Teana running away and set off after her. And Planya really couldn't be expected to realize that Teana was the illusionist - a rare and rather difficult skill like that would be expected from the senior Enforcer, not her aide.

Teana shifted to the side slightly to let Planya pass her, and then settled in behind, bringing her guns up. She'd want to give Planya a little more distance, though, the more skilled flyer would be able to retake the advantage a lot easier if they were close together.

And... she was out of time when Planya fired another narrow beam of dark blue up at her illusion... and through it. The illusion winked out instantly, and Planya jerked back slightly, looking around in surprise.

Teana set off two more cartridges, and fired a pair of seeker bullets, before following it up with a fusillade of more regular ones. Her invisibility spell dropped, but Planya had a bit more to worry about right now.

And Teana, pursuing and firing as fast as she could, just watched in awe as the Suvota showed just what an aerial veteran could do. Planya rolled out to the left... then the right... it was so casual, but the normal bullets kept falling short, every time Teana hit the trigger, Planya was already out of her sights. The seekers were still on-target, though... until Planya simply spun her body clockwise at the last second, decelerating sharply and passing between them, smashing both into nothing with quick staff-blows. She curled up into a ball, rolled forward a bit and then stretched back out - completely inverted and facing Teana - before diving at her.

Teana, wide-eyed, snapped off a shot, but they were both charging straight at each other at full speed - Planya's darts, and Teana's bullets, both missed as they flashed past each other, Teana flying above, Planya almost back down to the clouds.

Teana rolled up her own body in an attempt to copy Planya's quick turnaround. It worked, sort of, though Teana was pretty sure that if she tried to decelerate and speed up again that fast, she'd break her flight spell again, so she was still flying backwards - upwards.

Planya had, for her part, not turned around - she seemed to be trying to halt her dive and come back up, but... it was so sluggish...

She shed a lot of velocity on that turn, and she's so low she has nearly zero potential energy... that's about three seconds from stall. Still... she's good, it'll take just a moment for her to get her speed and maneuvering energy back up... Shot like this, I wouldn't forgive myself if I didn't take it.

"Phantom..." Teana aimed both guns at Planya's slowly-accelerating body. The orange target ring swirled out to direct the spell as soon as it was fired... A sphere of magic formed between the guns, projecting a laser sight - the red dot caressed Planya's left leg (hm, she wasn't intimately familiar with Suvota-issue jackets, but she thought they wore pants, not tights... and the huge skirt was definitely unusual), so Tea shifted her aim 'down' a bit (since she was firing from upside-down, that moved the dot up to more solidly on Planya's back).

Planya must've caught sight of the light, because she turned around, still gaining speed, but forming a large magical circle in front of her...

Two cartridges for a bit of kick. "... Blazer!"

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

Sunday, June 11, New Calendar Year 0076 (2017 CE)
Upper Atmosphere, Uninhabited World


The pattern established so far hadn't changed, much to Fate's frustration. Blue hadn't yet managed to really seize the offensive beyond a few very small, somewhat tentative attacks, but Fate's attacks hadn't quite gotten through her defences either.

Both had separated again for a bit of breathing room before going at it again. Blue seemed content not to speak, and Fate had a feeling she'd put her foot in her mouth if she tried. At the least she needed another angle to argue if she wanted to calm this down...

That was when the first telepathic message that could be heard since the explosion came through. It wasn't words, though. Just a girl... a short scream.

Fate's blood chilled, and she looked down and to the left, in the direction of that call. Teana...

The Suvota cossack's own expression looked much the same as she turned that way herself...

Both turned sharply back to face each other.

"I don't have any more time to spend on you." Both spoke at once. And neither looked in a mood to let the other go save their apprentice - and capture the other. The apprentices would capture each other... but whoever won this battle won it all.

At this range, the Suvota wouldn't possibly be fast enough to evade a bombardment spell. Not one of hers. Fate set off two cartridges, rune circles spinning out again. "Plasma..."

Blue raised her staff in her left hand. "Vyzhivanie, shift."

"Svobodnaya Figura," the staff intoned.

Fate slammed the charged ball of mana into the directional array, unleashing a single roiling beam of superheated air and electricity - this close in, the extra prongs of the trident wouldn't be able to arc back in to hit the target anyway, so they were just wasted power.

The beam roared in... and Fate stared as it split in two, one beam flying to the left of her target, the other to the right.

As it faded, Fate could once again see Blue - standing there calmly, palms outstretched to the sides... no staff, but a solid-looking bracer wrapped around her left arm. "Magical Conversion Affinity - Lightning. It makes attacks a great deal more powerful than raw mana, but it also opens the attacks up to manipulation via attraction fields."

Fate gritted her teeth. She didn't have time for this. "Cartridge Load." Sonic Move. Around, and behind, Bardiche switching to scythe form. Without the staff, Blue wouldn't be able to block this, even if she could track what was nearly a flash of lightning.

As she came in to slash, Blue hadn't even reacted to her disappearance yet... this was it.

But before Fate quite reached Blue... she noticed the magic woven into the space around Blue too late, by the time she saw it she'd slammed into it, and a thin, pale blue chain swirling into existence, lashing her arms together above her head.

Blue's bracer commented: "Clyuch Czep," as Blue turned to face Fate.

Fate was a little wide-eyed. A close-range trap bind... completely unavoidable if you walked into them... "How did you make it so fast?"

Blue smiled gently. "It was made before you ever charged. Before you fired, in fact." She aimed her left palm at Fate, a sphere of almost-clear blue forming in it. "Now, will you surrender? From your records, Fate Hallaoun, bind-breakers are not one of your specialties. You would succeed, but not before I finished you off. Please don't force this to end in injury."

Fate smiled herself. "Your records aren't complete, then. Bardiche, Jacket Purge - Overdrive."

"Sonic Form." Fate's barrier jacket shattered into light, blinding Blue (though probably not doing much damage), destroying most of Fate's clothing... but more importantly, disintegrating the cossack's bind.

As the light faded, Bardiche switched to Riot Zanber - two shorter blades, connected by a string of magic. She needed to finish this fast, before Aigaion's complement arrived - even she wouldn't be able to take on one hundred and eighty cossacks, and if the jamming was fading, she was running out of time. And while surrender was technically an option, she did not want to be a burden on the TSAB and her friends in it.

Blue saw Fate, and shook her head sadly. "You actually plan to fight like that? I can feel your mana level skyrocketing... but you're pulling that straight from your linker core, aren't you? It's like you're peeling it off and throwing it out at me."

Fate brought up both blades. "I'll recover."

Blue sighed, and dissolved the blue sphere of magic she'd been charging. She clasped her hands. "You're completely lacking in defences. You're liable to die if you're hit."

Fate nodded agreeably. "If." Full speed. No point going around behind, Blue clearly expected that... then again, she did have three dimensions to play with. In from above, slashing across with both blades...

... except that Blue wasn't there.

"There's no need to risk your life," the cossack's voice lectured from... behind her?!

Fate whirled around. Blue stood some distance behind her, hands still clasped. How... how had she done that?

"As long as you survive and work hard, any amount of power you want will fall into your hands. There's no rush." She raised her left hand. "Don't make me finish this."

Fate frowned. If Blue's own speed were really as safe as she made it seem, wouldn't she have used it from the start...? Fate only held Sonic back because, as they'd just discussed, it fried a number of nerve endings and left her very vulnerable to anything that stood a chance of hitting her - it was more a desperation maneuver than something in her regular arsenal. Unless she only had a few uses of it... Which would mean... she's trying to intimidate a surrender out of me before she runs out. Fate could feel a burst of magic around this area... it most definitely wasn't a normal dash spell like hers, but she couldn't quite lock it down. Bardiche's recordings would let them figure it out back on Albion, though.

Fate took a deep breath... and charged again. Straight-in, she needed to run down the Suvota's reserves before her body started slowing down.

Before she got more than just started, though, Blue's left hand flared with light and noise... painfully bright, searing at her eyes, howling into her eardrums... Fate screeched to a halt, unable to focus.

"Krepkaya Kletka," Blue's bracer commented, and as Fate finally managed to open her eyes, she saw a pale blue, barely-visible ripple of air between her and... everything. She was trapped in a pyramidal cage, and her arms were wrapped again by that thin chain...

Blue's staff was back in her hands, and the jewel at its tip pointed straight between Fate's eyes. "You pushed yourself too far, Hallaoun. Be more careful with your body, and with your attacks. You only have the one life."

Fate gritted her teeth.

The staff-tip started crackling. "You also only have the one barrier jacket, so you can't pull that purge trick again. I'll say this once more: If you attempt to break the bind, I will fire. With your defences down like that, this will probably kill you even with me holding back. Surrender."

... She didn't want to give up, but... she couldn't think of anything. Charging up any of her spells like this would take time... time that Blue could quite easily use to fire any of a dozen spells through Fate's essentially-unprotected head. Still... she could - and did - transmit all of Bardiche's recordings back to Albion. Hopefully it got through... as long as she got the information about the Suvota's new weapon back to command, they were oka... oh dear.

Fate looked up as a massive shadow dropped over them... five connected hulls, sharp angles and long curves, black and red... it was Aigaion.

... Yeah, this was over.

'Let them go, Colonel. We don't want a war.' Fate wasn't familiar with that young woman's voice... but she suspected it was Admiral Alaya.

Blue looked up. 'Our orders are to-'

'New orders. Let them go.'

Blue nodded, and lowered her staff. The cage and chain around Fate dissolved.

Fate quickly recreated her barrier jacket, switching Bardiche back to regular Assault Form. '... Thank you.'

'No need for that. This is not a favour, and need not be repaid or thanked - I am simply carrying out my duties. Call your apprentice back, and withdraw to your ship.'

Fate nodded slowly. While she didn't quite trust this turn of fortune yet... the fact remained that if Teana and she were together, they could just run, rather than fighting to get to each other. 'Teana, can you hear me?' She hoped Teana hadn't been the one to scream...

'... Eh? Fate? When'd the jamming drop?'

'Just a little while ago. Can you come up here? We seem to have come to terms with the Suvota for the moment.'

Fate could 'hear' Teana's blink. 'Um... is me carrying up the unconscious body of one of them going to cause a problem with that?' Fate had to spare a proud smile for Teana - she was admittedly more Nanoha's student than Fate's, but still... it was good to see someone you'd been involved in training succeed.

Blue turned to Fate. "No, it will not. In fact I would appreciate if you brought Planya back." Clearly, she'd been listening in. "As long as her injuries are not severe, I will also hold no grudge for having rendered her unconscious. She needed the lesson... splitting up mid-combat in a jammed zone..." Blue just shook her head, ponytail bobbing from side to side.

Fate sweatdropped slightly. 'It doesn't look like it.'

It was a bit of an uncomfortable silence for a few minutes. Fate and Blue didn't really have much to say to each other that hadn't already been said, and the ominous mass of a very large naval battlecruiser hovering overhead just added to the whole... ambiance.

But soon enough, Teana came into sight - Fate could see a rather large bandage wrapped around her stomach and trails of blood that had dripped down over her legs, but she was otherwise hale and hearty, carrying what looked like a ten-year-old in her arms. She was all right...

Teana continued floating upward - still wobbling a bit, but rather less than she had been before. She nodded slightly to Blue, as she passed the small Suvota off to the older cossack. "She's... very good. And... sorry about her Device, it broke when she tried to block."

Blue's expression looked a little sour - a bit irritated. "Clearly, her tactics did not keep up with her skills. Thank you for refraining from killing her. And catching her after you shot her down."

Teana shook her head, raising her hands. "No, no... don't worry about it." She looked to Fate. 'Sorry. I was trying to get back to you or get in contact with you, but she was too good...'

Fate shook her head. 'Don't worry about it. I had much the same problem.'

Blue nodded. "I'll leave you to this, then." She rose towards the huge battlecruiser.

Fate turned, and started heading back towards Albion, Teana settling in at her side.

The telepathic voice she presumed was Alaya came through once again: 'By the by. You may want to get decontaminated before you drop your barrier jackets or walk into unshielded areas. The bomb has highly toxic aftereffects, and one of you seems to have been flying through clouds of reactor and engine fuel to boot.'

Fate sent back an acknowledgement, and factored that into the little they presently knew about the Suvota's new weapon.

"You know..." Teana began.

Fate turned to her. "Hm?"

"I really hope those were the best they had."

Fate cocked her head. "Why?"

"One tangled with you and didn't go down for several minutes on end... If they were average..."

"Well... at the very least, they're well above average. The average Suvota cossack will usually lose against an average TSA mage, and... well, I don't know about yours, but mine did not hold out against me. She defeated me."

"... Shit."

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

Sunday, June 11, New Calendar Year 0076 (2017 CE)
Interdimensional Space
Suvota Compact Naval Service, Strigon Battlecruiser SX-005 Aigaion


The Sakhalin-class battlecruiser possessed a raised section with a very large window that looked down over the ship's body.

That was not, however, the bridge. It was too exposed - that entire raised section was actually a guest area and observation deck. The actual bridge was buried deep within the Sakhalin's hull, very nearly at the center.

Colonel Svetlaya strode in that direction, a little irritated. The inner halls of the Sakhalin - plain white bulkheads, largely undecorated, lacking even signs and arrows and you-are-here maps (a defensive measure against boarding, people who belonged there could access the computer to navigate if lost) - passed by smoothly, uneventfully. The whole ship was quite aesthetically boring right now, most of the personal touches had been taken down for this test. And Svetlaya had heard that Strigon's ships had quite a few personal touches normally, artwork created by the crew and the like - Alaya was very much a follower of the 'Navy is my family' school of thought, apparently. A few crewmen passed by her, saluting - she acknowledged them with nods and continued on.

And then she was at a red door. Svetlaya raised a hand to tap her crystalline pendant, and it opened for her. She stepped through.

The bridge was unlike TSA two-tier designs - Suvota bridges were simply a long downwards slope, the Captain's chair was at the highest point at the rear, and then crew stations and information displays spread downward and outward until reaching the primary viewscreen at the far ends.

Svetlaya nodded to the tall blonde Suvota man at the chair - Captain Sipij, the nominal commander of Aigaion, though since it was an Admiral's flagship, Alaya had overall command.

Speaking of which, Svetlaya saw her down towards the bottom of the ship, peering at one of the information displays - it looked like a graph of some sort. Svetlaya started towards her.

Alaya wasn't a very tall young woman, and was very young to hold the position she did - only fifty years old, though due to Suvota longevity her body was that of a human twenty-year-old. Not very tall, but a little taller than Svetlaya - Svetlaya was actually a great deal older, but aged unusually slowly even for a Suvota - and thin, in good shape despite not being any more qualified for combat duties than the basic minimum. Long dark hair, dark purple eyes, and of course the Suvota pointed ears. Her clothing wasn't that unusual - laced-up boots, white stockings, dark green coat with white trim and a white ruffled jabot worn at the collar, and a short white skirt, plus a short dark green cape hung at the back. Standard-issue naval duty uniform, though she omitted all rank insignia other than the flag officer's cape (and Svetlaya had heard she had a habit of taking it off as well), and the coat was not actually fastened at her waist, leaving her midriff uncovered. Probably for comfort, the midline fastener tended to be a bit tight.

Alaya looked back over her shoulder. 'Ah, Svetlaya. I've been expecting you.' Telepathy... well, it was a good choice, Svetlaya had a few things to say that would somewhat break discipline if she mentioned them in front of Alaya's subordinates.

Svetlaya leaned on one of the far walls, looking back at Alaya. 'I checked the communication logs. We received no messages from Estovakia since hours before the test began. Or anywhere else, for that matter.'

Alaya nodded agreeably. 'You're right, we didn't. There were no new orders, that was my own initiative. What do you think of Hallaoun?'

'She has definite potential, but she's a bit careless with herself. If she survives that carelessness, though, she'll be very, very impressive in the next decade. Her apprentice, though... now that one is interesting. Any fool can be a force to be reckoned with if they have a surplus of power, but that one... from Planya's logs, she was actually less powerful than Planya.'

'Sounds like that one will be even more problematic in a few years. And last longer, since most high-power human mages burn out by thirty. I rather hope that if we have to fight them, it's after those two have passed away from old age.'

'Also, though you clearly know my interests, I am not deflected that easily. They saw the test, Admiral. We need to keep it from leaking.'

Alaya raised a finger. 'Do we? They saw the test, yes. But. They don't know whether that was our initial test, our final test, or just a demonstration after testing was complete. All they know is that we are at some point in the development of a weapon that can destroy an entire naval squadron in one shot. Or a city.' She started pacing. 'They don't know its operating parameters - they don't know that it takes mere seconds to fire, unlike their existing superheavy Arc-en-Ciel cannon. They don't know that the range far exceeds any other weapon. They don't know it can be entirely automated, and make up for our lack of personnel. Because they do not know, they must assume the worst.'

Svetlaya raised an eyebrow. 'That we have it, it is the perfect weapon, and we are going to fire it at their cities if they look at us wrong? Please.'

'Exactly. And that they cannot do anything about it, because they do not know what it is. Which means they fear us. And that fear... that is what will keep them from attacking us. They know we can do a bit more, but they don't know how much more. They're now paranoid. Why do you think we were to perform the test so close to TSA space? I'd call this a complete success.'

'The test was a failure. The Pluto system cannot be effectively fired from a Sakhalin's hangar bay, it takes too much time.'

'But they don't know that, and by the time they find out, the Kievan-class will be rolling out. The idea that it would be cheaper to fire from an existing ship's hangar bay was the last argument against it. The test was a failure, but the operation... that was a success.'

Svetlaya nodded shortly. 'Well, it is a little too late to do anything more than hope that you are right. So I do. But I will still include this in my report to the Prime Minister.'

Alaya bowed her head. 'Of course. And if I am wrong, I will be reprimanded most thoroughly.'

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

Sunday, June 11, New Calendar Year 0076 (2017 CE)
L2 Orbit, Earth's Moon
Silver Ghost Flagship Sraionte


From Earth, nobody would see them - they were stationed in a geosynchronous orbit, what was known as the Number 2 Lagrange Point of Earth and its moon. In common parlance, they were on the dark side of the moon - its shadow hid them from any observers.

The halls of Sraionte were empty. Dark.

The only life within them was a tall, white-haired woman in a long grey duster, striding purposefully through the darkness. She could not see either wall in the darkness, or much else, but she knew where she was going.

Ahead, there were a few lights from a handful of consoles. In the center of those consoles, there was a high-backed chair, turned away from the room's door.

She stepped in, snapped to attention, and delivered a crisp salute. "The repairs are as complete as they can be made, and our supplies are stocked up once more."

"Oh? That's good to hear. At ease."

The woman spread her legs to shoulder-width, clasping her hands behind her back. "Yes ma'am."

"So what's our status?"

"The ships were positively decrepit. It took me five years to reactivate enough repair drones to be as well-off as we are now."

"Mm, it's understandable, we've been sealed away for quite some time. Are the personnel manufacturing facilities in working order?"

She winced. "I'm afraid not. The existing biomass degraded, and they're highly toxic right now. I've tried a few test builds, but they don't have the neural matter to hold a consciousness."

One of the consoles dimmed. A slim hand reached out from behind the chair to stroke it softly, and it lit back up. "That's okay. I know that wasn't your specialty. We'll just have to find another solution. How's the rest?"

"The rest of our functions are in solid condition - guns, engines, main cannon, shields. Our crew lack bodies and are mostly asleep, but they are still capable of operating. We will have to provide tactical direction, though."

"I suppose that's as good as can be expected. I have some news as well."

"Ma'am?"

"There hasn't been a war in almost a hundred years. There isn't a single experienced soldier in service any more. They're cattle for the slaughter."

"... What about the Silver Light?"

A hand waved from behind the chair, and nine diamond-shaped blue jewels rose in a halo above it. "Just nine. We won't be able to set off the true Silver Light with just nine keys."

"... There are going to be a lot of deaths, then."

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

00:11 Monday, June 12, 2017 CE
Tokyo, Japan, Earth - Non-Administrated World #97


"Buena Tarde, Anunciar."

Kanata's eyes opened with a blink, staring up into the night sky. It wasn't really as pretty as it should be... the sky never looked that great from cities. "Huh?" Voice... was odd. Too soft...

Kanata looked down.

"... She wasn't kidding about giving up my body..." It wasn't familiar in the slightest. Oh, it was human, but... given that there was no clothing on, Kanata could tell pretty easily that 'he' was now 'she'. Slender arms and legs... gently-swelling hips... and of course breasts, which Kanata was pretty sure were on the large side, though she didn't really have much experience with them.

Blushing, she levered herself up, and blinked. The first thing she noticed was that her body moved easily... her body hadn't looked too toned in the cursory inspection she'd managed (she probably should check more, but... it was embarrassing, even if it was supposed to be... her... body), and she hadn't spotted any of the little nicks, scrapes, and scars 'he' had picked up over sixteen years of workouts, so she had been expecting to be weaker than before, not stronger.

The second thing she noticed was that sizeable breasts moved very distractingly when unsupported. Blushing redder, she brought an arm up to hold them in place.

"Buena Tarde, Anunciar." The voice - a softish masculine voice - sounded a little irritated as it spoke again.

Kanata blinked, looking around. She didn't know the language, but for some reason she could still understand - 'Good Evening, Anunciar'... "Um... my name's not Anunciar, it's Kanata." She couldn't see who was speaking.

"Kanata es Anunciar. La Anunciar es Kanata." 'Kanata is Anunciar. The Anunciar is Kanata.'

Kanata sighed. "All right... where are you...? I can't see you."

"Su Cuello."

"You're on my-?!" Kanata blinked, and slapped a hand to her throat. Sure enough... on the left side, there was some kind of... growth. It felt a little... soft... and warm. Three rounded bumps of... felt a bit like cartilage, she supposed, soft and a little yielding, but strong. Her eyes widened. "What... what are you?"

"Soy Reconquista."

"Reconquista...? No, not who are you, what are you?"

"Soy su Referencia, Anunciar."

Kanata blinked. "That... is just another word I don't get."

"Le Ensenare, Segun lo Prometido." 'I will teach you, as promised.'

"Okay... so... are you the companion she talked about?"

"Si."

Kanata smiled weakly. "All right then... Reconquista. Let's go."

"A Donde?"

Kanata's smile faded. "I have a double murderer to find and stop, and I don't think the police can handle something like... that. She said power came with this - show me how to use it."

"Siga mi Plomo." 'Follow my lead.'

"I'll do just that." Kanata started walking. She didn't know where to, but away from 'his' corpse and that of that girl were her focus right now.

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

Next: Chapter Two.

Another incident has begun. The Suvota Compact's preparation for war continues as the Silver Ghosts begin to awaken from their sleep. The TSAB strives to discern the truth before matters become dangerous, but... for Kanata Shirahime, at least, they already are.

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

Author's Notes: Thanks go out to Sunshine Temple, who did a grand job of making me trim my work down, Akuma-Sama, and Belgarion213, my prereaders.
As a note, you may notice a few names that you recognize from other sources, other magical girl shows, or video games. This is not a crossover with anything, I'm just really bad at coming up with names and... borrowed. (Especially names in a foreign language that are also supposed to be gender-neutral - ie, Kanata. This isn't a crossover with Oto x Maho, for those who recognize the name, it's more of a homage with a very different character... and now that I think about it, that might just get a tad confusing if I ever write an actual crossover with it...)

_________________
"There is very little that cannot be solved through the proper application of immense levels of firepower."


Wed Oct 14, 2009 1:29 pm
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Cherub

Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2005 2:17 pm
Posts: 33
Location: Toronto
Post Re: Art of Love, Art of Death (Magical Girl Nanoha Fanfic)
Disclaimer: No copyright is mine, thus no copyrighted character is.

Art of Love; Art of Death

By Pale Wolf

Chapter Two

Intermission - Preparations for Round Two

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

08:46 Tuesday, June 13, 2017 CE
Tokyo, Japan, Earth - Non-Administrated World #97


It was raining. Had been pretty much constantly since noon yesterday.

Kanata was actually pretty surprised she hadn't seemed to develop a cold or any symptoms of... anything... yet. She hadn't found any shelter, really... and to be honest, hadn't been looking that hard.

She hadn't slept yet, either, and was again surprised that she had not yet suffered ill effects.

Thirst was of course an issue, but... the rain helped a little with that.

She was really hungry, though. The unfortunate part was that while the two that weren't affecting her were, to some extent, fixable, the food bit... Kanata didn't have any money on-hand, nor did she have much clue where to find food that did not require money.

And robbery, or raiding dumpsters for food... Kanata may become desperate enough to go that low, but she certainly did not intend to.

At least she had clothing... sort of. Getting clothing from the trash was a completely different matter from eating from the trash, and given that the only other pieces of free clothing she knew of were on corpses - specifically, her corpse - it was a matter of either that, or getting arrested for indecent exposure. As it was she positively reeked, and her clothes were an utter mismatched mess - the only thing that was semi-clean was the bandage she'd wrapped around the mess on her neck.

Not that she was ashamed of Reconquista - he'd been very helpful, in fact, not least because of his apparent three-hundred-sixty degree vision - but he would just... draw a lot of attention.

That 'hunting down the monster or monsters' idea was apparently not quite as easy as saying it, though. The trail of... blood? Whatever it was, it had dried up within a block. And apparently they weren't quite common enough for her to come across one through random searching...

Kanata sighed, leaning against the wall of a side alley - she thought it was a stationery shop - and craning her neck upward. The skyline of Tokyo had changed a lot over her lifetime...

From here, she could see the most obvious new addition - called the Millennium City, built out on Tokyo Bay. Three cylindrical one-kilometer tall glass-walled skyscrapers, each essentially a large number of thick 'blocks' anchored by massive support struts (wider at the base to make it more stable and narrowing out in a slow curve), linked together near the very top by a thick, triangular platform.

It was the first of what she'd heard was a new generation of dense living spaces, intended to relieve Tokyo's (and Japan's) high-population-low-living-space crunch. Its little brothers were under construction in the bay around it, in fact, though she couldn't see them from here. Apparently, the government intended to relieve the population crunch by relocating almost everyone to arcologies like that after the Millennium City had proven itself - though Kanata had not yet been in it, in the eight years since it'd opened for habitation (it only finished last year, though).

... She'd probably have to check it out, too, for these... monster things. Though it might be a bit difficult getting in... since it was out on the bay, the only way to get to it was through public transport, and given that she looked like a hobo without the resources for even semiproper hygiene - which was fair since she was a homeless person without the resources for even semiproper hygiene, hair tangled and hopelessly dirty... - she'd probably be politely escorted away from any train stations by security.

Which was a little unfortunate, since while the food issue was still a little pressing, the fact that it was well-protected from the elements would make it a good place to be when her endurance ran out and she fainted.

While she was thinking that through, an awareness that someone was behind her filtered into her consciousness. She could smell them. She couldn't hear them, and how she could smell anything past her currently... distinctive... scent was unknown to her, but... she turned.

It was a girl, maybe a year older than her - so, seventeen - standing by the stationery shop's back door, head cocked slightly, observing Kanata without an ounce of emotion showing on her face. Dark green eyes. Long black hair falling mostly freely to her back, except for two deep red ribbons, one behind each ear, keeping it slightly controlled... the ribbons were a bit more of a 'cute' touch than Kanata would have expected from someone with that girl's absolutely humorless expression. A plain red, traditional Japanese-style bamboo-and-paper umbrella, held in her right hand, shielded her from the rain. Her clothing was almost as traditionally Japanese - black-and-white checkered kimono at the top, dark gray hakama at the bottom - with a light brown scarf wrapped around her shoulders, and tightly-laced black boots.

Kanata shook herself out of observing, and started backing away. "I'm very sorry... I'm in your way, aren't I...?"

"Wait."

There wasn't much force to the girl's tone... but it was most definitely a tone of command. Kanata stopped, flushing... she didn't really want to be seen like this...

"... You stink."

Kanata flushed. "I know." That was roughly the time Kanata's stomach decided to rumble, loudly - digesting itself since she hadn't managed to put anything in it... was she getting hungry faster than before?

The girl raised an eyebrow, and held her umbrella forward. "Get under."

Kanata blinked. "Eh...?"

"I won't say this again. Get under. Do you want food and a bath or not?"

YesyesHELLyes, her... scent... was annoying enough even to her... She couldn't honestly be sure this was a true good Samaritan and not something sinister, but... she was reasonably proficient at taking care of herself as far as self-defence went, and... really, really needed food and hygiene. And if it was a prank... well, she had already been killed, resurrected as a girl who couldn't even look at her own body without blushing, and was acquiring mismatched clothing out of dumpsters. Her pride really didn't have much more damage to take.

Which was why Kanata darted under the umbrella - keeping a little distance from the girl, she didn't want to get all the dirt on her body over her nice clothes. "... Thank you, um..."

The girl glanced down at her - while Kanata was not much shorter, her hunched posture put her a bit lower than eye level - and shrugged. "Saiko." Then she started walking towards the street - Kanata hurried a bit to keep up.

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

Tuesday, June 13, New Calendar Year 0076 (2017 CE)
Interdimensional Space
Time-Space Administration Bureau Main Office


"Mm... okay, Bardiche, could you replay the last twenty seconds again?"

"Yes Sir."

Fate nodded, and leaned forward in the seat to watch the screen as the image on it rewound.

"Did you see something?" Teana asked, keeping an eye on the screen herself.

"I think so. I'm just checking."

"Start?" Bardiche asked. Probably to make sure she wasn't distracted by the conversation and missed what she wanted to see.

"Go ahead."

The image on the screen - a display screen in one of the main office's many debriefing lounges - began moving again. Blue threw another single, lone bolt of magic at Fate, who instantly triggered Sonic Move to come around behind her, lightning-fast. Just as Fate disappeared... there was a tiny movement of Blue's head... a nod. Even before Fate was all the way around, Blue was moving her staff around behind her back - it would block Fate's scythe-slash, but she'd seen enough.

"Okay, that's it. I figured it out."

Teana blinked. "Really? It looks like she's just really good at defence..."

Fate shook her head. "It looks like she was... testing me. The fight was easy at first, I thought I had her on the defensive... but did you see that nod?"

Teana pursed her lips, leaning back into her own chair - the main office had very, very comfortable chairs. "Well... I'm remembering one now, though I don't know if I actually saw it or am just projecting it over my memories since you told me one was there."

Fate smiled. "What I think happened is simply that... she went defensive first by choice. She made a number of small, relatively tentative attacks, but she wasn't trying to score a hit or rack up damage, she was trying to find out how I reacted to a particular attack pattern, and the way I moved and thought. So that when she and I went all-out, she knew what I would try ahead of time. Basically... she could take on everything I threw at her because she had already prepared for it two or three moves ago."

"That seems to agree with her records," Shari chirped, as a communication window from her (ensconced in the Infinite Library) popped into view. "She's a defensively-oriented cossack, cautious and analytical."

Fate blinked. "You identified her? This quickly?"

Shari chuckled. "I'd like to claim it was my genius, but really... it's because she's famous. The pictures match up with Colonel Svetlaya, Suvota Compact Air Service."

"... I guess if I had to lose, she's a pretty good choice."

Teana winced. "I've only heard the basics on the Suvota, and I've heard of her..."

Shari nodded. "The longest-lived Suvota... ever. Five hundred years old and she still looks that young."

Fate sighed, leaning back. "Five... hundred years. Of constant combat experience and training. It's... kind of hard to imagine. I improved this much over eleven years, and Teana went from C to AA in just one year... Even an utter slacker would be SSS after that long if they put even a smidgen of effort in."

"Hard to tell," Shari commented. "The Suvota don't have a mage ranking system, and they're notoriously tight with information - they're perfectly happy to release information on people Svetlaya shot down, but her power statistics and bag of tricks are completely classified."

Teana leaned forward, looking at the information display. "Well... her mana numbers can't be too high. The readings Fate got were really low, and if she were even capable of overstraining her endurance, she'd have completely burned out after five hundred years - especially since she fought in the Velkan Wars."

Fate winced, and reached over to the table for her cup of coffee. "I've seen the numbers on that... the average combat lifespan of a cossack deployed against Velkan knights was... something like two minutes. And that's with extreme overachievers like Svetlaya skewing the balance upward. If she could have been pushed to the point of self-damage, she would have during that... so I think you're right. Of course... her bag of tricks is huge. Once she started going all-out, she pulled out a completely new technique every two seconds..."

Teana looked up at Shari. "How the heck did she outrun Fate, anyway?"

Shari held up her hands helplessly. "I've got nothing. There're no records of TSAB or Velkans facing off against that, which means Fate's either the first person to force Svetlaya to pull it out, or just the first one to survive it. Bardiche's logs seem to indicate a zone spell over the area she moved through, but I have no idea what that means."

"Hm? Let me see that," came a male voice from the Infinite Library end of the conversation.

Fate blinked. "Yuuno, you were in today?"

Another screen popped up - Yuuno wasn't actually looking out from it to Fate, though, he was looking down, probably at Shari's data display. "Yeah... I didn't want to interrupt, I thought we could chat once you were on break."

Fate shifted to address Yuuno. "How has Nanoha been?"

Yuuno blinked, looking to the screen and grinning. "She's been great, and so has Vivio. Her strain issues haven't cropped up again, either - she's been so healthy, even I can't keep up with her."

Fate smiled. "I heard about the picture incident."

Yuuno paused, mouth open for a moment as he worded his next statement. "Not my fault. Completely not my fault."

Teana covered a snicker, but otherwise tried to stay out of the conversation. She didn't really know Yuuno, after all.

Yuuno shifted attention slightly to her. "Heard about it, hm?"

Teana blinked, and nodded. "Vivio's last mail mentioned it."

Yuuno raised an eyebrow. "In slightly less than glowing terms?"

Teana just nodded. "She was... a little specific."

Fate giggled. "Is this going to be a lasting piece of lore with Vivio?"

"Probably not, I expect we'll embarrass her enough next week that she completely forgets about it... Oh, right!" He glanced down at a display again. "That speed thing - I think I get how she did it."

Fate, Teana, and Shari all blinked.

"Remember the time-delay exclusion zone I used to set up, back when we first met, to keep our fights from spreading to the civilians?"

Fate nodded. "Of course, I... wait a minute. Are you saying she-?"

"It looks like it. It's an extremely difficult spell on its own, though... bringing it up in that short an amount of time, and shaping it like that - a sphere or dome is a lot easier, she seems to have twisted it into a sinuous line to exactly match the path she took to get to you - is... well... incredible. I might be able to bring one up fast enough, but there's no way I could shape and reshape it like that with anything like that speed."

Fate tsked. "And you're the best exclusion zone and defensive mage there is..."

"Second-best, apparently, when it comes to that spell at least."

Teana whistled. "I guess five hundred years of practice time is good for something."

Fate just nodded, taking a sip of coffee. It was quiet for a moment, before she blinked. "Ah, by the way, Teana, good job on your own match - from the logs, your own opponent was spectacularly powerful for a Suvota, and her technique was excellent. AA+ at least, maybe even AAA. You might be ready for your next exam soon."

Teana blinked, and shook her head. "I don't think so, it was still a very hard fight. And I only stood a chance because she made tactical mistakes and I had a better Device - that last exchange, when she sent a bombardment spell to force back my Phantom Blazer... she was fighting completely raw, without any power enhancements at all, and matched me when I used two cartridges. It only went through because I set off my last two..."

Fate shook her head. "You're right, partially. Right now she is better, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're not AAA-ready. And even if it does, you're approaching it very quickly if you keep up your practice."

Teana pursed her lips, and nodded. "I guess I'd better do that then." She stood. "Unless you need me for any more of the analysis?"

"No, go ahead, I don't think there's much more, and we've been watching these logs for about twenty-five hours already. I'll just run through them a few more times and then shut down."

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

09:34 Tuesday, June 13, 2017 CE
Tokyo, Japan, Earth - Non-Administrated World #97
Sentoshi Mori, Millennium City


... Kanata had to admit to being a little confused. She'd just been thinking about the Millennium City's three towers... and then Saiko appeared and took her there. Was that just one of those strange coincidences...?

Oddly, nobody had complained about her smell on the way up - and she was pretty sure she'd reeked. They just noticed her bedraggled appearance... and a few security officers seemed to approach her, but stopped when they saw Saiko. Kanata had been wondering why they were familiar with her - and trusted her enough to let her take a vagrant in - but understood now. It seemed Saiko lived or worked at one of the Millennium City's main Shinto shrines.

So right now she was pretty much in the middle of the very uppermost block of the southern tower - the shrine was stationed in the middle of the 'parkland' that dominated the center of each block.

More specifically, she was in the bath of the residence attached to the shrine, taking just a moment to relax in the water after having washed herself (and that itself was a time-consuming, extremely embarrassing experience)... oddly, she hadn't fallen asleep the moment she relaxed, despite not having slept for two days straight.

Kanata shook her head, and stood up, dripping water for a little while before stepping out of the bath. She was already being given quite the favour, so she really shouldn't stretch it out.

Taking a towel and tentatively rubbing her body down, valiantly attempting to ignore the... pleasantly soft... parts, she glanced up into the mirror... may as well see what she looked like now.

The first thing that caught her attention was the eyes. And that was mostly because they were extremely bright - a little too bright, not quite glowing, but not far from that either. Colour wasn't much less attention-grabbing, since they were a brilliant amber... and as she leaned in to see the pupils, she noticed that they were vertically slitted. The second thing that caught her attention was Reconquista, where it... sort of grew out of her neck. A cluster of three... sort-of-jewels (by appearance, at least, though she knew they weren't crystalline, but more like cartilage) of the same almost-glowing-amber of her eyes, her skin puckered around them somewhat like a scar.

She laid a hand on the 'jewels' while she took in the rest. Fortunately, the rest looked... well, human. And... from the opinion of someone who had been male two days ago, attractive... which she would rather not think about in any way, shape, or form. Soft, pale whiteish skin... her eyes glossed over the gentle curves and substantial breasts, not quite emotionally ready to be checking herself out. Straight black hair, pretty long, reaching down to around her hips.

And it also seemed to not want to dry. Kanata continued rubbing it down, and it was still damp... How exactly do women handle all of this stuff?

... Finally, she gave up, grabbed an extra towel, and tried to wrap her hair with it so it at least wouldn't drip over everything while she asked. It... took a bit of effort, and the end result was still sloppy and looked like it would come apart at any moment, but she eventually had to say 'good enough'. Now, 'her' clothes...

Were gone. Kanata sighed. While she agreed that they were a complete cobbled-together mess that had literally been salvaged from trash cans, they were also currently the sum total of her life's possessions - she had nothing else to wear, whatsoever.

Her cross, however, was still there, and she picked it up, carefully fastening it at her neck, letting the plain gold cross dangle into the hollow of her breasts. Her... patron... had apparently moved it to her new body... which was good, because she really wouldn't have been comfortable taking it off his own corpse.

She looked up. Hm. Seemed like someone else had arrived at the shrine. Female adult, in the living room with Saiko... and how precisely had she known that?

Kanata shook her head, sighed, and wrapped a towel around herself. She was reasonably good with knots, so it should stay on without assistance... which was fortunate, as she needed her other hands for A: keeping the towel on her mass of hair, and B: covering up Reconquista, since the bandage she'd used for that was missing as well. She'd have to ask Saiko where her clothes were... probably in the wash.

She opened the bathroom door, and tentatively stepped out, moving through the wood-floored halls until she could peek around the corner into the living room. "Excuse me..."

Saiko and the other woman - apparently engaged in conversation - looked up.

The other woman was... quite small, actually, Kanata was smallish for a girl and that woman was even shorter and slimmer despite being older. She looked about twenty, with longish red hair tied up in a twist, and light brown eyes. She was also dressed in traditional shrine wear - red hakama, white kimono, and the rest - so Kanata supposed she was one of the shrine workers.

The woman smiled. "Well, it's our guest, isn't it? Good morning."

Kanata flushed, stepping into the doorway and bowing deeply, eyes low. "Thank you very much for your hospitality... I am sorry I lack any appropriate gifts." She came back up.

The woman waved a hand casually. "Don't worry about it. What's a shrine for if not helping a few people who need it?"

Saiko, seemingly content to standing quietly in the background, just raised an eyebrow.

The woman just pointed at her, despite having had no way of seeing it. "And you can cut the snark. Have a seat, kiddo." She pointed at the room's couch - apparently, the shrine-keeper liked mixing traditional and western furnishings.

"If that is what you ask..." Kanata stepped a little further into the room, and carefully sat down.

Saiko lowered her body into a kneeling position on the floor across from her, coughing into a hand and making a short gesture towards Kanata's legs.

... Which were spread. Cheeks red, Kanata snapped her legs together.

The other woman, for her part, perched on a chair across from the couch, leaning forward. "All right... I'm not going to ask any questions. This is just me talking to myself, okay? Confirm, deny, or butt in wherever you like, but you can stay quiet the whole way through if you want. None of what we offer you is going to be conditional on you speaking up."

Kanata frowned a little, and nodded. "All right... please go ahead..."

"Now, my name is Kaede. From what Saiko-chan," Saiko twitched at that, "has told me, it seems you've been living on the streets. I can think of three reasons why."

Kanata raised a hand. "Um... Kaede-sama, I do not believe your guess is going to be accurate... My situation is rather complex..."

Kaede chuckled. "Let me give it a whirl just the same." She held up a finger. "Now, the first possibility is that you're a runaway. Maybe an untenable situation at home, maybe adolescent angst, maybe... almost anything."

Kanata pursed her lips, and... moved to shake her head, but didn't quite finish the movement. She... as he... had minimized the amount of time spent at home, after all...

"If you are, we won't send you back. As far as I'm concerned, you would either be in a situation where your return is a problem or potentially unsafe... or you would not yet be ready to return. Either way, you would not benefit from it. The second possibility is the opposite - that you've been kicked out. This is one of the ones I'm worried about, especially since you haven't stopped covering your neck this whole time - it's making me think that you're hiding a scar... and one you're sensitive about."

Kanata blinked, and shook her head. "No, no, it's not a scar, it's... well..."

"No need to show me. The last possibility is... well, that you don't have a home to go to. Orphan, or..."

"No... that's not it. Not... quite..."

Saiko glanced at Kanata. "Could be all three."

Kaede shrugged. "Really... it all adds up to the same thing - you either can not or do not wish to go home, right?"

Kanata just nodded. 'His' mother wouldn't recognize her, in the slightest. And she... wasn't the type to take in a strange freaky-looking girl. None of his teachers would recognize her either... And he hadn't had any real 'friends' - certainly not the type who would try to arrange a home for a wierd girl claiming to be him (or, for that matter, anyone he'd gotten to know well enough to prove her identity to).

"And you clearly lack other options, or you'd be using them, rather than the street. So... let's give you another option."

"... Eh?"

Saiko rolled her eyes. "Kaede is being indirect. She's offering to let you live here."

"Sure, spoil my dramatic buildup why dontcha... But yeah. We've got room for plenty at the shrine, and we have enough budget to feed another hundred mouths. Interested?"

Kanata just stared. "But... um... I'm sorry, but I am not a follower of Shinto..."

Kaede waved it off. "Even if you don't have a place for the kami, the kami have one for you."

Kanate shook her head, pointing to the cross around her neck (with her right hand, not the left which still covered Reconquista). "No, no, I mean I'm Christian, not-"

"And? Where do our religions even disagree? Your god doesn't say that there aren't any other gods - just that you won't accept any as more important than him, right?"

Kanata blinked. "Um... I guess?"

Kaede nodded. "And hey, that's perfectly fine. I've got my own favorites. Anyway, worship isn't even soething you need to do - I'm offering living space, no strings, no questions asked."

Kanata blinked. "But... why? I really do not have anything to offer... And I cannot promise anything..."

Kaede shrugged. "To be honest, everything I need or want I either already have or am en-route to getting. That's when I share the surplus with whoever needs it - and... you seem to need it. Nothing more than that."

Saiko gave her a sidelong glance.

Kanata took a deep breath. "... Can I think about it a bit?" She needed to slow down, at least a little...

Kaede nodded. "Sure, feel free to stick around until you've decided."

"Ah, and, um..."

Saiko glanced up. "Clothing in that room." She pointed.

Kanata flushed, and stood up, then bowed and strode quickly to the indicated room, studiously ignoring Kaede's snickers.

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

Tuesday, June 13, New Calendar Year 0076 (2017 CE)
Interdimensional Space
Time-Space Administration Bureau Main Office


"... You're kidding, right?" the audio response began. "We don't know the details of what they were doing, and even if we did, we would not tell you. And please understand, this isn't hostility - you send your ships, do your business, and we will neither ask nor tell, same as always. In our position, we can't afford to take sides - any one of you could smush us with a passing effort, and quite frankly, until somebody deploys a significant enough amount of force to keep anybody we piss off from squishing us, we're staying neutral in any and all conflicts. You're free to come and check, though."

Admiral Lindy Hallaoun flicked a finger, shutting off the message - there was more, mostly pleasantries, but that was the gist of what she wanted to get across. "As usual, the American response was the most... colourful... of the various Earth nations." Which was largely why she'd decided to play theirs instead of the more polite ones - entertainment value. "But they all essentially state the same thing - one Suvota ship, SX-016 Briareos, has made frequent visits to Earth. Consistently taking a short orbit over eastern Asia - long enough to drop or pick up passengers - then floating more randomly for a short time, before returning. Beyond that, all refuse to tell us, and don't seem to know much to start with."

The TSA board - in this case consisting of the Bureau Chief of Staff Admiral Mizetto Kurouberu, General of the Armed Forces Ralgo Kiil, the chief representative to the Suvota Compact Alana Cook, Lindy herself, and Fate T. Hallaoun as the Enforcer who'd stumbled onto this case - mulled this over for a little while.

Ralgo Kiil stroked his long beard. "That does sound like a possibility. What about the Theocracy?"

Lindy held up her hands. "I have no honest clue. I spoke with one of their officials, but he completely stonewalled me. Either they really are the missing link, or they're just refusing information out of spite."

The 'missing link' she spoke of was a simple fact - the Suvota, while refusing TSA membership, did refrain from using mass-based weaponry. Not to comply with or fit in with the TSA, but because... they just weren't that good with it. Their technological expertise lay more in directed-energy weaponry and their utterly-spectacular mana reactors, so their engineering of mass-based weaponry had stagnated.

Yet, upon analysis, one thing was plain - this new Suvota weapon was a missile. Mass-based drive, mass-based warhead... the entire thing was well beyond their present engineering capabilities, in that field.

Mizetto cocked her head, her iron-grey ponytail dropping to the side. "What are the chances of it being Orusia?"

Which meant that the Suvota had acquired it from a foreign power - either bought outright, or received technical assistance on.

Mass-based engineering in administrated space had degraded in the years since such weapons were banned - most of the engineers who had any proficiency in the matter were either dead of old age, or under arrest (Jail Scaglietti). There were only two worlds, and one nation, that had the expertise to make a missile that went that fast, and detonated that strongly. Earth, of course.

The Argene Theocracy - the second-largest by territory and single largest by population nation to continually repudiate TSAB membership of any form. (That repudiation took the form of first a polite refusal, and then running off by firepower any TSA attempts to administrate the worlds within their territory, like the Suvota). The Argene were best-considered the absolute masters of chemistry and mass-based technology - one of the reasons they refused TSA membership was their distaste for throwing out their existing technological advancement. And the fact that the Argene, though human, had an Earth-like spread of magical potential, essentially negligible in most with a few extraordinarily-powerful outliers - magic-based society was simply too unreliable for their demographics.

Lindy shook her head. "Unfortunately, there are clues pointing to them as well. The Suvota consistently send food shipments to Orusia as foreign aid, and it would be essentially trivial to arrange meetings, or sneak a few engineers onto the transport. None of the factions down there admit to it, but..." She shrugged.

The last possibility was Orusia - a single world that had repeatedly rebuffed TSA offers of assistance, and had been embroiled in what was a very nearly constant civil war for decades - almost since the beginning of the new calendar. That was, in fact, why they rebuffed TSA assistance - the TSA would force a halt to their civil war and decide on a settlement, and none of them wanted the result arbitrarily decided by outsiders. That and their own preference for mass-based technology, specifically magically-enhanced mass-based technology that would essentially become illegal should they sign up under the TSA, which was what had landed them on this list.

Mizetto rubbed her eyes. "So nothing can be narrowed down yet?"

"It's possible they got parts from all three, too," Alana spoke up. "That would make locating a source more difficult, and prevent another nation from having access to it - remember, the Suvota don't trust the Argene any more than they do us. Less, in fact, since the Argene aren't on a long-term peace footing like we are."

Ralgo nodded. "So... we will have to investigate all three."

Fate chose this point to spoke up. "Excuse me... may I request the Earth theatre?"

Mizetto glanced at her. "May I ask why, Dearie?"

Fate cleared her throat - elaborating on a thought wasn't really one of her strong points, Lindy knew. "I am the only current Enforcer who has spent a significant amount of time on Earth - even my aides have been there. Anyone else would have to spend a lot of their time getting familiar with what is common knowledge to me, and is likely to miss things that I would catch. And... I want to follow this case." Meaning she wanted to improve and face down the woman who had defeated her, knowing Fate... Lindy did not quite understand her sense of fun.

Mizetto glanced at Ralgo. "What do you think?"

The wizened man nodded. "She raises a good point. The only other Enforcer-trained officer on our rolls with any real experience with that planet is her brother, and he has passed on to different duties. And Special Investigator Yagami is still on an assignment of her own. Cultural familiarity counts for a great deal in investigations and espionage, and this is both."

Mizetto nodded. "Then, it seems you will head up the Earth Investigation Team. We will find a few other specialists for your assistance, of course."

Lindy leaned forward. "I'd suggest a helicopter pilot, as well - not all of the specialists will be flight-capable, and we won't be able to keep a ship in orbit unless we want the Suvota to spot it and know how far we are in our investigation. A helicopter will probably be important for getting around with some reasonable speed and all the equipment they will need."

The true reasoning for that request was very, very simple - she wanted Sergeant Vice Granscenic on that team. According to Hayate, he was aware of Carim's prophecy, and the fact that it was still in effect. While this particular case had not yet set off any of the prophecy's flags, it definitely had the potential to be one of the more severe incidents in the past few years, and it certainly didn't hurt to have him around just in case something resembling the prophecy popped up and Fate needed to know it - and he didn't have any other useful assignments it would be taking him from. The line of reasoning she'd aired to the committee was also quite true - they'd need a helicopter. That and he was, in addition to his piloting qualification, a AA+ mage - Lindy figured her daughter could use all the firepower she could get.

Mizetto nodded. "That's perfectly sensible... Ralgo, I suggest we add Captain Takamachi to the team." ... Apparently, Mizetto thought the same.

Lindy rubbed her temples. Her head was aching, suddenly... She'd need to get some rest after this meeting.

Ralgo raised an eyebrow. "Well... I'd need to check to be sure, but I believe she's available right now. Why that suggestion?"

Mizetto smiled... odd. It was the same smile as usual, but Lindy didn't get the warm feeling she usually emanated. "Whatever this Suvota project is, Colonel Svetlaya seems to be associated with it in a security sense. If they do find out and choose to silence the investigation team... we already know that Enforcer Hallaoun isn't quite up to the Colonel's level yet, and that could end quite badly for all involved. However, Takamachi is very good, and partners well with Hallaoun - the two of them together may be able to take her on."

Fate just shook her head. "Excuse me, but... Nanoha still hasn't recovered fully from the JS Incident. If she overexerts herself again..."

Ralgo ran a hand through his beard once more. "That may actually be a benefit." He smiled. "Oh, don't look at me like that, allow me to explain. You see... the Suvota will also consider it dangerous to start a fight - with Takamachi there as well, they would not be able to keep it quiet. If the message got out, it could trigger an all-out war - most of the TSAB's client states would consider assaulting a team investigating their weapons development a completely valid cause for hostilities. So chances of them launching an attack, even with her just there as deterrent, are very low. In the worst case, that they do, your team will stand a chance. In every other case, Takamachi recieves what is essentially a leave of absence - she'll rest significantly more on a completely non-exerting mission like that than in training combat mages, and recover faster. Especially since you are there to keep some measure of reins on her habit of overexerting herself."

Fate blinked.

"Never looked at it that way, hm? Call it the benefits of age."

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

09:44 Tuesday, June 13, 2017 CE
Tokyo, Japan, Earth - Non-Administrated World #97
Sentoshi Mori, Millennium City


When the girl had been in the changing room (actually Saiko's bedroom) for a little while, Saiko glanced at Kaede.

'...You lie easily.' The telepathic message was as toneless as her normal speech... seriously, so boring.

'I've been told it's my specialty,' Kaede responded, hopping to her feet.

Saiko, for her part... unfolded, was the best way to describe the smooth, graceful way she rose from a kneel. Kaede would start feeling like a klutz, hanging around her and the new girl... 'Do minimize that. I was not amused that you only told me to pick up paper, somehow neglecting to mention that I was to pick up her as well.'

Kaede raised a finger. 'And yet you picked her up anyway, without knowing it was, well, her. She needed to see your genuine reaction. You don't lie easily, and going all mission-ey would've scared her off.'

'And you couldn't just pick her up? We've already covered that you're good at lying.'

Kaede grinned, linking her hands behind her back. 'Now, now, who better for that than her Knight?'

Saiko just shot her a look of pure disdain. 'Please minimize the use of those titles Sara-chan thought up. The hair ribbons are bad enough.'

'Awwww, big tough Saiko-chan just can't turn her down, can she?'

Saiko looked about to respond, but that was when the girl came out, so she opted not to speak up and distract herself.

She looked quite pretty, really, and the smooth, graceful way she moved didn't hurt in the slightest. Like the perfect traditional Japanese girl, really... which Kaede personally found hilarious. At the moment, she was dressed in one of Saiko's school uniforms - black knee-length skirt, black long-sleeved top with the sailor-style collar. The deep red bow, instead of being tied where it was technically supposed to be at her front, was knotted around her neck as a scarf. The fit was reasonable, Kaede supposed, though rather tight in the chest - it was a pity Saiko was completely uninterested in that, because it would have made great tease fodder for at least a couple of days.

The girl bowed, deeply and for several seconds, hands at her sides. "Thank you for... everything, but... I really cannot return any of what you have given me..."

Kaede raised an eyebrow. At least she was using the reasonably gender-neutral (and extremely formal and refined) 'watakushi' to refer to herself... too many boyish mannerisms would cause her a few problems, but it was pretty clear what the raw material had originally been.

Saiko waited until the girl was up, before making a short, reasonably shallow bow in return. With her hands clasped in front of her waist - the way a girl was supposed to bow.

The girl clearly got it, given her slight flush.

"Your school uniform?" Kaede just shook her head, glancing at Saiko.

"Mm? Why not?"

"Well... I suppose you skive most of the time anyway."

The girl cut that tangent off... with her stomach, specifically, growling loudly. She went almost completely red. "I'm sorry!"

Saiko shrugged, turning on her heel and walking off. "Follow me."

The girl blinked and hurried a little to catch up, Kaede following as well, and soon enough they were at the kitchen.

The girl paused for a moment at the doorway, and simply stared. "That's... um... quite a lot of food."

Kaede snickered. Understandable reaction to the spread - though given that Saiko's cooking skills were 'semi-tolerable' at best, it was all instant food... a whole lot of packages of instant food, it kind of occupied the entire table. "Go ahead, that's about as much as Saiko-chan eats, stop when you're full and we'll save the rest for later."

She nodded uncertainly. "All right... oh!" She reddened - the earlier blush had just faded, and now it was back. "I'm terribly sorry, I forgot to give you my name!" She bowed again. "I'm Kanata! Shirahime Kanata!"

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

_________________
"There is very little that cannot be solved through the proper application of immense levels of firepower."


Last edited by Pale Wolf on Wed Oct 14, 2009 7:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Wed Oct 14, 2009 1:51 pm
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Cherub

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Location: Toronto
Post Re: Art of Love, Art of Death (Magical Girl Nanoha Fanfic)
09:56 Tuesday, June 13, 2017 CE
Clanagan, Midchilda - Administrated World #1
Takamachi Residence


"Mm... I haven't got the order in yet," Nanoha responded.

"Well... the meeting only finished a few minutes ago, it probably hasn't gotten around to you."

Nanoha nodded. "Thanks for the heads-up, Fate-chan. I should be packed soon enough, and I'll need at least a few hours to arrange care for Vivio-chan..."

On the other end of the communication screen, Fate sighed. "Sorry... I couldn't think of an argument against it."

Nanoha grinned. "It's fine. It's an important mission, even if my role is just to relax back at home. Vivio-chan will... be okay. Yuuno-kun and Arf-san can take care of her while I'm gone, and hopefully it won't be that long..."

Nanoha was still worried, despite her brave front, but... between Yuuno, Arf, all the knights and priests of the Saint Church, and the Nakajima family, Vivio was, bluntly, protected well enough that it would take the armed forces of a reasonably large planet to actually hurt her. She could at least tell the difference between a reasonable fear and a ridiculous one, even if she couldn't stop worrying either way.

Fate pursed her lips. "Make sure to relax while you're there, okay...? If things do go bad... you'll need to be as recovered as you can be."

Nanoha held up a finger. "I can't slack off training or I'll get rusty, then I'd be no good if it does turn into a fight. If you share what you've got when we meet up again, then I can at least keep it to a dull roar."

Fate sighed. "That's the best I'm going to get, isn't it? All right... I'll pass on what I know of fighting Svetlaya so you know what to train for, but I probably shouldn't say the details over a long-range frequency like this."

"... Nanoha-mama and Fate-mama are both gonna be gone...?"

Nanoha blinked, turning to the slightly-ajar door of her office to see where Vivio stood, eyes watering slightly, clutching her white rabbit doll. She'd clearly been listening to at least some of it.

"Ah... just for a little while, Vivio-chan. It's just an investigation..."

Vivio looked up at Fate's communication window. "... How long?"

Fate glanced at Nanoha - Nanoha could catch the wince, though Vivio probably couldn't. "... Unfortunately, I don't know yet. But... most likely at least a few months."

Vivio shook her head. "No."

Nanoha blinked. "Vivio-chan?"

"No," Vivio repeated. "Wanna go with mama." She ran up to Nanoha and latched onto her leg.

Nanoha looked through the vidscreen at Fate. Telepathy wasn't possible at interplanetary ranges, but... Help! She stroked Vivio's hair while she tried to think of what to say.

Fate opened her mouth... then paused, closing it for a moment of thought. Then she nodded to herself, and spoke. "Vivio-chan, Nanoha-mama and Fate-mama need to discuss something right now. Is that okay?"

Vivio looked up, and nodded solemnly. "... Yeah."

A moment of silence.

Nanoha smiled, looking down at Vivio. "I think she meant in private. Vivio-chan, I absolutely promise I won't leave while you let us discuss this."

Vivio pursed her lips for a moment. "... Okay." She let go of Nanoha's leg.

... Impulsively, Nanoha ducked down to hug her.

Vivio returned the hug for a few moments, before they separated, and Vivio scampered back to the door. She turned and pointed sternly at Nanoha. "Remember, promise!" Then she slipped out.

Nanoha let out a deep breath. "Well... I think I'm getting better at this."

Fate covered her mouth as she chuckled. "Shouldn't she be at school at this time anyway? It's pretty late in the morning over there, isn't it?"

Nanoha waved a hand. "Teacher workshop day, they're picking up a few extra qualifications to help them teach better. Tomorrow too. So... what did you want to discuss?"

Fate pursed her lips. "Well... I was just thinking... why not?"

Nanoha blinked. "Why not... what?"

"Vivio wants to go with us... why not?"

"... Well..."

Fate raised her hands. "Please... hear me out."

Nanoha nodded, leaning back in her chair.

"Vivio would miss a few months of classes, but you can tutor her to help her keep up, and she was already ahead. She would also be completely safe - the Suvota are even more protective of children than we are, they wouldn't dream of putting her in danger, even if they found us. And anything else that may come up... you and I can keep her protected better than anyone else. Arf can come, Yuuno can drop in on Earth instead of Midchilda... And you'll be able to relax much easier when Vivio is nearby."

Nanoha raised an eyebrow. "You know... that sounds way too good to be true. And you'll get to spend more time with Vivio-chan too..." She rubbed her chin.

Fate nodded. "Yes... and... I think Vivio also wants to see where we came from."

"Mm... well... we do know the details about her past, so I can see why she'd be curious, but... I don't know..." She had to admit the idea was tempting, but...

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

10:01 Tuesday, June 13, 2017 CE
Cinigrad, Estovakia, Suvota Compact
Nikanor Air Service Base


"You've been avoiding me, Planya," Svetlaya commented from the training room's doorway, arms crossed.

In the center, Planya, who had been running through a few training maneuvers, froze in mid-motion.

Svetlaya casually strolled in. "Down. We need to talk."

Planya slowly lowered from her hovering position. She still didn't look in Svetlaya's direction.

Svetlaya stopped a short distance from Planya, and smoothed out her white air service uniform. "I don't think I need to tell you that you fouled up. Pretty badly, too."

Planya turned to... sort of face her. She still wouldn't meet Svetlaya's eyes as she nodded. "... I know."

"I'm going to tell you anyway - just once. In detail."

Planya winced, looking down.

Svetlaya sighed. "You broke the wingpair. You completely negated our ability to support one another, and since you did it during the Pluto System's jamming effect, the instant you split off it was irreconcilable."

"... I'm sorry."

"Not only that, but by doing it you directly contravened standing orders. You could be court-martialed for that - though in this case, you will not. As a direct result of your choice to split up, you were shot down, and survived only at the discretion of your opponent."

Planya swallowed thickly, and did not bring her gaze up.

"Not only that, but I was put at risk as well."

Planya's head jerked up - though she still didn't meet her gaze, instead looking slightly off to the side. "That's not possible! You're-!"

"It is. The Enforcer's Overdrive granted her a truly tremendous level of speed. Had she used that before I understood her behavioural patterns, the outcome would have been in doubt. Had she used that when I was still keeping a lid on my techniques so she couldn't analyze me, I could have been defeated in the first exchange."

Planya winced. "... Really?"

"Quite. Battle is not the sure thing you seem to think it is - our opponents have the very same potential we do, and if they set the pace, even our skills will fail to theirs. That is why you do not throw away an advantage."

Planya just nodded. "Okay..."

Svetlaya looked around the training room - empty, of course, no point getting pieces of equipment destroyed by a practicing cossack. "All right, I'm done. You seem to get it, so I suppose we'll have to thank the junior for giving you that lesson."

Planya just gritted her teeth.

"Now that you know you can lose, we can start turning you into someone who can't."

Planya blinked, and it was a moment before she could speak. "Huh?" Not well, though.

Svetlaya smiled. "It's an amusing paradox, isn't it? But those who do not believe they can lose... can. To never lose, you must never forget that you could lose. You've been running through the logs, trying to find your mistakes, but I can explain them all in one simple statement: You did not believe you would lose, so you took risks, and made maneuvers and decisions with less care than you should have. Your opponent this time was truly talented - even if you had taken the fight properly, the outcome would have been uncertain. But because you assumed your victory, there was no other way the match could have ended."

Planya closed her eyes. "... I'm sorry."

"You've learned technique with an incredible knack, and you are the most powerful, mana-wise, that the Suvota race has produced in well over a hundred years. But that is also the danger - you are too talented. It's left you unaware of your weakness."

Planya... sort of glared, but it lost much of its effect when it was directed at Svetlaya's shoulder. "I am not weak!" Given her inability to look directly at people, Svetlaya suspected that was more a rote defensive statement than something she truly believed at the moment.

"Everyone's weak. We can all break - I can break, Hallaoun, who was truly powerful, can break. You'll never unlock your potential until you are aware of your weakness. Your opponent knew she was weak, and so she struggled to overcome it, and continually covered herself. And that, in the end, is why she was too strong for you."

Planya winced. "... If you say so."

"It is also why I'm as strong as I am - because I knew that I sucked right from the beginning. Now that you know, we can really get started with your training." Svetlaya activated her barrier jacket.

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

Tuesday, June 13, New Calendar Year 0076 (2017 CE)
Interdimensional Space
Time-Space Administration Bureau Main Office


"Also, I heard you had your first battle as an aerial mage," Subaru Nakajima began. "So how was it?"

Teana's training, at the moment, was mostly running on instinct - and Cross Mirage was monitoring to catch any errors she made as she soared through the central headquarters flight range. So she had enough attention to spare for the communication window next to her shoulder while she practiced her flight skills.

She gnawed on her lip, thinking of how to answer. Terrifying, she could've - and probably should've - gone down in an instant, her opponent was far better than she was. Uncomfortable, her eyes had been straining and nearly staring into the sun almost all the way through. Yet... exhilirating. She hadn't been pushed that far since facing off against Nove, Wendi, and Deed near the end of the JS Incident - her mind had been pushed to the limit, racing for every second, fully, exquisitely aware... she could still remember every exchange perfectly, even without Cross Mirage's logs.

"Well... I won." Didn't mean she was one to talk about little things, though.

"Nice, Tea! So what kind of criminal was it against?"

"Subaru, you know I'm not allowed to leak case details, I've told you that before. And this one's even more sensitive."

"Awwwww."

"And your end? How's the Disaster Relief Department treating you?" Teana paused in midair for a moment, looking around. The flight range was, basically, a very large open room with spells around the walls and floor to keep any amateurs from wounding themselves - Teana appreciated it, though everyone else seemed to have their flight under control at the moment.

"Heheheheh." Subaru put her hand to the back of her head. "It's been great. They've started calling me the Silver Ace now for some reason..."

Teana snorted. "'Some reason'? Like being the best they've ever seen?"

"Well... if you say so."

"I do, and therefore it is a fact." Teana swept upward, slightly - a mage whose flight skills were clearly better than hers zipped through underneath her, equally clearly not paying attention. If he was going to be practicing at an open facility, he really should keep an eye out that he didn't crash into anyone else...

"So... any idea what's next?" Subaru had that goofy blushing grin she tended to pick up when complimented, Teana could see that out of the corner of her eye.

"In the case? Only a little - apparently Fate's taking us out to... an undeveloped world," Teana just caught herself before passing it on. Information restrictions existed on all ongoing cases, and this mess with the Suvota was even more sensitive than most.

"Oooooh, their secret base?"

Teana snickered. "Something like that." Teana focused for a moment, flipping forward and trying to pull off Planya's quick reversal again.

Aaaaaand her flight spell snapped again. Sighing, Teana went about fixing it. At least the flight range had safeties up so if she smashed into floor or wall, she wouldn't be needing a hospital stay.

"Are you okay, Tea? What was that?"

Teana considered asking Subaru to let her concentrate... but really, she was going to be distracted almost every time she was flying - it needed to be something she could do while only paying half a mind anyway. "Just trying to get a move down. Not quite there yet."

Subaru just looked at her for a moment. "How much have you slept since the fight?"

Teana blinked. "Um... eight hours or so? Maybe nine?"

"Wasn't it two days ago?"

"Don't worry, I'm still good for now." And the flight spell came back together again, arresting her fall well before she hit anything. She wasn't going to overdo it or anything... she just wanted to get as much of what she'd learned from fighting Planya engraved into her bones before she forgot it.

She knew she could be that good... but she also knew she wasn't, yet. She had a ways to go, and borrowing from someone better was a good shortcut. The next training session should probably work on the spells Nanoha had taught her...

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

10:30 Tuesday, June 13, 2017 CE
Tokyo, Japan, Earth - Non-Administrated World #97
Sentoshi Mori, Millennium City


Kanata stared, a little horrified, at the empty, cleaned-out ruins of what had to be over a dozen distinct meals of instant food. And she was still hungry. "But... it's only been a couple of days..." Had her appetite risen that much after having been revived? What in hell was she?

Kaede chuckled, picking up one of the instant boxes. "Like I said, Saiko eats this much every meal. Don't worry about it, we've got room for this and plenty more in the budget."

Kanata just shifted her stare to Saiko - specifically to her trim waistline. "How?"

Saiko looked up. "Fast metabolism."

Kanata blinked, and stood up, trying to gather a few more of the boxes. "I see... um, please let me clean that up, Kaede-sama. I only need to know where the trash can is..."

Kaede grinned, looking over at Kanata and, with a flick of her wrist, sending the box she'd picked up spinning to land on top of the pile balanced in Kanata's arms. "San at most, please. I've never been 'Kaede-sama' in my life."

"Um... all right, Kaede-san..."

Saiko walked across the room and opened a door to the outside. "For obvious reasons, a normal-sized trash bin is insufficient. It's next to the door."

Kanata nodded and strode out to the door, looking around - it was a tall black bin to the right, alongside the home's back wall, with the lid apparently left open. She hefted her pile up, and dumped it in.

When she turned back to go inside and get the rest, she noticed that Saiko was already there and carrying it. "Ah, um... I can take care of that..."

Saiko just squeezed past her and tossed her boxes into the trash, before shutting the lid. "You're a resident, not a maid. Just do your part, no more is necessary." She breezed back in.

Kanata stood there for a moment, not really sure what to say to that... eventually she just stepped inside. Waiting around staring at nothing while she tried to figure out the right response was just wierd and got her scorned. "Um... thank you..." She closed the door behind her.

Kaede shook her head. "Like I said, don't worry about it."

"But still..." Kanata cleared her throat. "Um... do you know where there is a spare set of..." She gestured at Kaede's shrine clothing.

Kaede blinked. "I thought you weren't into the religion?"

Kanata shook her head. "This and that are separate matters... You're doing this much for me, I should help out where I can. God will have nothing to say against paying some respect to other paths of worship."

Kaede just raised an eyebrow. "You know... I wasn't expecting that. And you really don't have to - the other two people who live here aren't religious in any way, shape, or form, and don't do any more than your basic house chores."

"Which you sometimes have to... remind... Sara-chan about," Saiko added.

"Tangential at best to the matter at hand," Kaede responded instantly - clearly, she'd been expecting the editorial comment. "My point is... you don't have to. There are absolutely no conditions we're holding you to here.

Kanata nodded. "I know. And that is why I am offering. I do not want to take advantage of your generosity..."

Kaede chuckled. "Well... that I can work with. Come on, let's go get you kitted up."

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

Tuesday, June 13, New Calendar Year 0076 (2017 CE)
Interdimensional Space
Time-Space Administration Bureau Main Office


Vice Granscenic looked over his shoulder, pausing in filling his duffel bag. "Yo, Colonel."

Hayate shook her head, leaning against the door to his room. "Go ahead and keep up what you were doing, I just wanted to talk a little bit."

"Nah, should be tomorrow before I leave anyway." Vice dropped the bag, and straightened up. "I'd offer you a seat and a drink, but..." He waved around his room - as a non-commissioned officer, the room he was assigned at the main office was fairly small, and distinctly lacking in wet bar.

"So... you've heard what your new assignment is?"

"I've got the details... and since you're here, I'm guessing you want me to keep an eye out and see if this case has anything to do with the prophecy?"

Hayate nodded. "My research back here hasn't turned up any good leads. If worst comes to worst, the main office is the best guess we have on the 'ship of law' that the prophecy warns about being destroyed, so I should be on-site, but I - and Admiral Hallaoun - feel that we're better off keeping an eye out as far as we can."

"To see if I can pick up any signs before things get bad enough that the main office gets destroyed, right?"

"Yeah. From what I've heard, this case doesn't look like it has much to do with the prophecy - yet. But it's big. If the Suvota have enough of those missiles, they could start a war with impunity... and if someone else has them too..." She shook her head. "This could get very, very bad - I want you to pass along the prophecy to the others the minute you see anything that looks like it's going on out there."

Vice nodded, closing his eyes. "You mind confirming I'm remembering it right?"

"Go ahead."

"Okay... 'In the land where ancient crystals and infinite desire gather and intertwine, the wings shall revive from the holy land, beneath the dead king. The dead shall dance, and the tower of law in the central lands shall burn to the ground, but, before this, the ship of law that guards the many seas will be torn apart.' ... Is that right?" He opened his eyes.

Hayate whistled. "Good memory. And yeah, that's it - or at least, it's the best translation we were able to manage."

Vice tapped his chin. "It was originally in Ancient Velkan, right?"

"Yeah."

"Do you have a copy of the original text? Lanster's good with languages, and we may need to retranslate it on site - once we know the actual context, we may realize we'd gone with the wrong translation, so..."

"Hm... I think I can manage that. I'll get it to you before you leave. Anything else you'll need?"

Vice thought for a moment, then shook his head. "Not that I can think of. I'd love if the prophecy were at least slightly specific, but..."

Hayate laughed. "That goes for the both of us. Hopefully at least a little bit of it is non-poetic enough that we can recognize it when it's right in our faces."

"I'll call in if I see anything."

"Pass it through Admiral Lindy Hallaoun - I don't have access to enough of a high-security channel for this."

Vice nodded. "I'll remember. That said... hopefully this is just a ferrying job."

Hayate raised an eyebrow.

"... Yeah, I've never been that lucky either."

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

12:56 Tuesday, June 13, New Calendar Year 0076 (2017 CE)
Farbanti, Verusea, Argene Theocracy
Order of the Sea Central Administrative Chapel


Verusea had been a beautiful world, once, teeming with life, even the skyscrapers works of art. Over the centuries, smog had swept over it like a blanket, pollution doing its damage and leaving the beautiful works of art standing alone, the trees, grasslands, and flowers they had been built to complement gone.

In recent years, due to environmental policies, the holy land of the Argene Theocracy had begun to recover, but it wasn't quite there yet. It was at least safe to go outside without an oxygen mask, though. Back when Renault, Chevalier of the Coast, had been young, she couldn't do that.

Though right now she was inside, and none of the chapel's windows were open. Just because one could breathe Verusea's air now didn't mean one wanted to.

Still... hope was hope. Renault liked to hope that her homeworld would once again - maybe even in her lifetime - be the beautiful holy land she'd seen in pictures and movies.

"Dame Renault, please enter," the secretary spoke up from behind her desk.

Renault nodded sharply, and after running a hand through her pink hair, walked up to the high-arched, wooden doors. The waiting room was pretty and all, filled with vibrant colours and finely-wrought pieces of artwork, but it was still... a waiting room.

The doors opened of their own accord, and Renault stepped through. The office was much the same as the waiting room, but in more muted colours - beautiful curling pieces of metalwork and filigree, a wooden desk that looked like it dated back at least two hundred years, to when Verusea had a reasonable supply of forests...

There were two people within. Behind the desk was Prelate Willard - by reputation, a powerful man in the Holy Order of the Sea, but choosing to remain at a lower rank - a tall man dressed in plain blue robes, hair gone stark white, clean-shaven. The other sat at one of the chairs, slim with blonde hair, dressed in the black leatherlike uniform of a chevalier - a knight. As Renault walked in, she saw the front of the white jacket he wore over it, and winced at the feather emblem over his left breast.

A Chevalier from the Order of Pages... last time she'd been on a mission with a library knight, the entire thing had devolved into a long series of disquietingly large explosions that left her alone and facing down a naval destroyer that was backed up by an entire squadron's worth of rogue knights... My Lord... please don't let this end with me going on a mission with him. I will donate a quarter of my salary to the Church to not have to go through that again.

She snapped to attention, kneeling shortly before the prelate. "Renault reporting as requested."

The prelate nodded, gesturing to another of the three chairs in front of his desk. "At ease, and have a seat."

Renault moved to the seat furthest from the blond Page Knight, keeping a careful eye on him.

Willard picked up a thin metallic datasheet. "I understand you have experience with Heterodox World #45? Earth?"

Renault bowed her head, wincing further. "Yes, prelate. I was partnered with Sir Florentin of the Order of Pages." A small unit from the Order of the Coast had gone absent without leave, trying to set themselves up as pirates. That whole debacle had gone on way too long... and she severely doubted Canada would ever want her back within their borders.

Willard nodded. "Good... allow me to explain. It seems we have recently received a request for information from the TSAB. The Suvota appear to have a new weapon, and the TSAB thought we may have been responsible for it."

Renault frowned. "Us responsible for it, prelate...? That would mean it's a gun or missile?"

"Missile, apparently. And a few dummy companies we've traced back to the Suvota have been paying for small bits of design work. We haven't put them all together yet, but it appears to be lacking both engine and warhead."

"Which means," the Chevalier of Pages spoke up, "that they must have got it from someone else."

Willard nodded. "Exactly. Now... it is still possible that engine and warhead came from us, and we are accelerating our investigation now. However, if it is not us, then there are only two possibilities. Either the Suvota came up with it themselves - which seems... vanishingly unlikely, that they could have caught up so fast. Or they borrowed assistance from somewhere on Earth."

Renault frowned. "Um... what about Orusia, prelate?"

The other knight shook his head. "Orusia is emphasized mostly in guns and magic. They could maybe do the warhead, but a missile's engine is not something they're good at. To be honest, the Suvota could do better themselves unless they were stuck on using a reaction engine for some reason."

"It will be checked out, of course," Willard responded, "but your task is to investigate Earth. We know from contacting local authorities that Suvota ships have been hovering over the East Asian region."

Renault paused. "Um, prelate... by 'your task' do you mean both of ours?"

He blinked. "Of course, Dame Renault. Sir Abel is proficient in information-gathering, but not familiar with the world's culture. You are familiar with the world, and a distinguished member of the SRF, but not a trained investigator."

Renault glanced across at 'Abel' - thin, young (though not younger than her), confident... he was going to get her blown up again. She turned back to Willard. "Prelate... Earth's cultures are radically distinct, just like our own. I was mostly operating in North America, I am not familiar with the Asian continent."

Willard nodded. "Just the same, you are familiar with the world's political situation, and that alone saves precious effort and gives you an insight others may lack. Expanding your knowledge from there will be up to you."

Renault winced, looking at Abel again. He seemed amused. My Lord... am I going to get independently kicked out of every nation on that planet?

He didn't answer.

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

Next: Chapter Three.

The hunt is on. Everyone's looking for something... and everyone thinks they'll find it on Earth.

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

Author's Notes:
First order of business: Thanks go out once more to prereader squad - Sunshine Temple, DCG (also known as McClown though I'm uncertain as to why), Akuma-sama, and Belgarion213.
You may note that I've been using 'zone' and 'exclusion zone' where the old Triad subs translated it as 'barrier'. This is to reduce confusion - the Japanese word is 'kekkai', which is less 'barrier' and more 'sanctified ground', and considering Nanoha already has fairly strict definitions for 'field', 'barrier', and 'shield' spells, none of which quite fits the 'create a battlefield locking everyone who's in, in, and everyone who's out, out' spells from the original series and A's, I thought another term was more effective.
Also note, I didn't just make the Millennium City up to sound cool - it's an actual proposed project for Tokyo developers. I just figured that, hey, almost a decade in the future, maybe Progress (tm) has rolled on a bit and a few projects have hopped off the drawing boards and into real life. The Millennium City is slightly modified from the actual proposed projects, but the basis is the SkyCity 1000 proposal, with a little mixed in (mostly the location and the name) from the Millennium Tower proposal, for anyone who wants to look into them.
To my first reviewer, AluciusDawn (thanks, btw): Three way war? Three ain't even the start of it. And yes, I have some strange fascination with genderbending - no idea why, but by now I've just accepted it as one of my deviancies.
Speaking of reviewers: They are appreciated, even if you don't have anything to say but 'looks fun'. I'm not gonna hold the fic hostage for reviews or anything stupid like that, but it is nice for an author to know that people are reading and enjoying their work ;)

_________________
"There is very little that cannot be solved through the proper application of immense levels of firepower."


Wed Oct 14, 2009 1:52 pm
Profile
Cherub

Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2005 2:17 pm
Posts: 33
Location: Toronto
Post Re: Art of Love, Art of Death (Magical Girl Nanoha Fanfic)
Disclaimer: No copyright is mine, thus no copyrighted character is.

Art of Love; Art of Death

By Pale Wolf

Chapter Three

And There Was No Taking It Back

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

10:53 Tuesday, June 13, 2017 CE
Tokyo, Japan, Earth - Non-Administrated World #97
Park Area, South Tower Fourth Block, Millenium City


Kanata probably should sleep sooner or later, but in honesty, she was just not tired. She was no longer hungry, and she had somewhere to stay for the moment.

She had left the shrine... eight hours ago? Maybe? After covering some chores and the lighter part of her new duties. She did not plan to leave permanently until she'd paid back what they had already done for her, but... she had something to do.

Those monsters that apparently only she knew about... one of them had already murdered at least two people. Possibly more that she hadn't seen personally. She didn't really know what they were. She didn't really know if they were all dangerous... but she knew that one of them was extremely violent... and if the others were like that too...

Well, she knew that they were out there. Or at least had been told in something that she'd have passed off as a fever dream if she had not woken up, alive, female, and with a talking thing implanted in her neck - credulity seemed the way to go, considering how far she already was past what she had previously believed to be fact.

She had the power to do something about it - according to that conversation, at least. She had a vague idea on how to use it, too. So dealing with this apparently fell to her.

Her search had been, to be honest, pretty random until a short while ago. But she'd just caught a scent. Literally. The scent was as she remembered from the last time, somewhat... spicy.

She was unsure how she was suddenly able to track things by smell, but... for now, she would roll with it.

The other option was that he was rapidly losing his connection to reality, and there really was little to be gained by presuming oneself insane. She would... still need to pay careful attention, though.

For tonight, though... she did not want to lose the trail. Nostrils flaring slightly, she walked down the park trail... the scent meandered somewhat, mingled with everyone else who had been here... but though it was not the freshest, nor the most direct, she did not lose it. It was clear where it was going, and she did not even need to pause to keep the scent in her nose.

Just calmly breathing, long strides carrying her between the trees. The swishing of her school uniform's skirt around her knees was... a very, very unusual sensation. Much airier than she was used to... she'd either need pants, or to just get used to this.

Given the hour, the lights were turned down, but her present body's night vision was positively spectacular - she could still see in full colour. The park was apparently a decent date spot at this time of night, given the couples she had seen along the pathway so far, but they had paid her no mind, and she had tried not to intrude as she passed.

The scent was getting stronger. Not just stronger as in closer, but as in... as if it were sweating. Getting excited.

Kanata halted, and turned to the left, peering past the bushes and into the trees with her nearly-glowing amber eyes. The trail turned here.

She turned a quick glance to either side... nobody in view.

"Reconquista, is it nearby?" she whispered.

"Si, Anunciar."

"Can you refine your tracking from what we are learning tonight? I'd like our work sped up, if possible."

"Hare eso."

She smiled faintly. "Thank you."

She took a deep breath, taking the spicy scent in, and then stepped into the bushes, pushing the branches aside and forcing her way through. Still went this way... and it had been getting more excited with every step. This was bad.

Kanata strode after it. She wanted to run, but she was uncertain how far it was, or how old the trail was - this current stride was faster over long distances, since she would not slow to a gasping crawl when she ran out of endurance. And she was not quite confident enough in her scent tracking abilities yet to task it with too much speed.

The going was a little more difficult here, since there was no wide-open paved path, but it was still a completely artificial environment, so the trees were fairly widely-spaced, and the shoes she had borrowed (from Kaede - Saiko apparently used those boots all the time) were flat and reasonably sensible, though she wasn't sure if they would stay on if she had to move very fast.

The trail had stopped meandering. Straight as an arrow now. She could hear something ahead... it sounded like a struggle.

Now, she did run. A few low-hanging branches whipped her in the face as she went, but it was no more than a few seconds before she came out into a clearing.

At which point she screeched to a halt and turned away, face heating. "I'm sorry!"

It wasn't a struggle after all... just a couple taking advantage of a clearing's privacy, and neither much clothed at this point. From the sounds behind Kanata, they hadn't even noticed her, so she started to walk away before she ruined the... moment.

That was when it wafted past her nose. Her eyes widened. She had not smelled it very often, but once you did... you never forgot the faintly metallic smell of blood.

She whirled back to face the writhing couple, and lunged towards them, grabbing the man by the shoulders and yanking him off the woman... he did not resist. And the woman's mouth was filled with blood...

Kanata gritted her teeth, and just started to haul the man away before he really caught on that his activities had been interrupted. She was not quite confident enough to be able to protect someone else while she fought, she needed distance.

She paused as she turned to look up at the man... his mouth was wide open, blood pouring from it... a strange, fuzzy scream began welling up from within his throat...

She put the pieces together at about the time that something thin and sharp slammed its way through her back and out the front. There was a faint hissing sound, and her breathing suddenly hitched... her lung?

Wait a minute... it was the woman?! Damned old-fashioned instincts... Kanata threw the screaming man as far as she could... his landing would be very uncomfortable, but getting him away from the attacker was more important right now, as she spun back to face her enemy.

Something 'cracked' behind her, as she turned... and given that she still felt that long spur of... was that bone? Given that it was still in her as she turned, she supposed that was what had given off the sound.

The woman was standing now... mostly nude save for, rather incongruously, her socks. Dark gray. Her right arm was... not an arm, at this point, but a long mass of solid bone, with the very tip broken off. It grew back even as Kanata watched, and a hinge appeared in the arm... a sort of elbow, almost like an insect's limbs. She was chewing on something...

Oh God... did she bite off his tongue?! Kanata's stomach lurched, and she clenched her jaws together... she did not have time to give in to biology.

The woman's skin bubbled, swelling out...

Kanata backed away slowly. She needed to kill it now, before it attacked... it seemed to want to change first, thankfully. "R... Reconquista..."

"Quite el arma," he interrupted.

"Eh? Remove it...? But..." Right now that spur of bone was holding her wound shut. It would have to be pulled out sooner or later, but she needed it right now or she'd faint of blood loss...

"Confieme en." 'Trust me.'

Kanata swallowed. This went against everything she knew right now, but... He knew more than she did about this kind of thing. She would never have got even this far without trusting him. She laid both hands on the spur of bone... looking down, she shifted her grip. This was really going to hurt, but... it was barbed. She'd have to pull it all the way through, instead of out the way it came.

As the woman's body... that wasn't even the word anymore. As the thing's body grew, the head... dissolved, most of it vanishing into the shoulders with a loud slurp. The face stayed... migrating down its chest until it reached a position right over where the stomach would be, if this were still a human body.

The spicy scent was overpowering, now...

Kanata gritted her teeth, braced her arms... and yanked. Her mouth opened, but she didn't quite have enough air in her to put any actual voice into her scream. A dribble of blood came up into her throat. She gagged on it, and spat it out before she swallowed it again. She glanced down at her chest... through the hole ripped in the school uniform's shirt, she could see new flesh growing, knitting itself together like some kind of grotesque tapestry... sealing the wound shut.

... Kanata had not known her body did that. Self-healing... she was not human now. She filed the matter away for later.

She looked up from her blood-soaked hands, dropping the monster's spur. Its transformation seemed to be finishing... it was tall. Almost as tall as the trees, and its width was not much less. Two legs, powerfully-built and with what seemed to be more than the normal amount of joints... it had no arms, but six spiderlike limbs arrayed around its gaping maw served that function... she could not see any eyes at this point, but the creature could definitely see her somehow. It was facing right at her.

Kanata swallowed... there was still a bit of blood in it. "Reconquista... It is time."

"Creacion." 'Setting up.'

She did not close her eyes. She did not need to concentrate a great deal. She needed to focus, imagine her weapon, her armour. But she knew her weapon by heart. She could use any... but there was one she had always favoured.

She held out her hands out in front of her, and closed them around the almost-two-meter wooden shaft as it formed. She swung down the half-meter curved blade at its top, pointing it at the monster. Close, but not quite a classic naginata - she had imagined the blade thicker, more glaive-like. She needed it tough enough to survive slamming into that thing.

She glanced at it as the weight settled into her hand... yes. Exactly according to specification. She had not been quite as imaginative with her 'armour' - she would have gone with the traditional armour she had trained with back in her martial arts lessons, but Reconquista had said cloth worked just as well, and she knew the normal armour weighed her down a little. She'd want full speed for this... and considering the last one had had strength enough to punch a hole in concrete, she suspected traditional armour would not suffice.

So her clothing was pretty much a repaired and cleaned version of the school uniform she had already been wearing... though this one was significantly more comfortable, fitted properly to her.

And she was out of preparation time as the monster took its first step forward. Not as clumsy and lumbering as one would hope, given its size... smooth. Contrary to media, it did not roar. Probably didn't want to give itself away.

Time to focus.

Kanata backed up with her own smooth grace, naginata still pointing directly at the monster. She was not afraid. She probably would be if she thought about it, but she did not have time for that. No... she had backed up simply because the man on the ground needed her to protect him. He was still too close. If she stepped away, the monster could just chew him up.

He... wasn't moving, though. Fainted, most likely. If this was not resolved quickly, he would die of blood loss...

Or suffocation. She backed up a little further, and used her foot to nudge his head to face sideways, rather than straight up. He was still bleeding, and if it didn't pour out, he would drown in it. He might still die of blood loss, but this would buy him some time.

The monster was... being unusually careful. The last one had simply charged ahead even when Kanata had interfered, but now, it was advancing slowly - slowly enough that even given its longer stride, the distance did not change.

Kanata took a breath, taking in its scent. She would need to attack. Given its size and strength, if she tried to block, it would most likely just break her arms as she did so.

"Cierre del limitador," Reconquista spoke.

Kanata blinked. "Shutting down... I have a limiter?"

Reconquista didn't get an opportunity to answer, as the monster chose this opportunity to surge forward, sharp-edged limbs lancing in at her.

But Kanata was not one to put down her guard that easily. She whirled the naginata in one direction, nudging the spider-limb off course, cocked her head the other way, and slid like water between the six exoskeletal limbs, left arm pumping the naginata's butt up just below the monster's jaw - roughly the center of its mass.

She was expecting it to be jarred slightly. Sent flying back, almost rolling, knocking down four thick trees as it regained its footing... that, she had not expected. Apparently, she was even stronger than she had already observed.

She blinked for a moment, trying to take in the effect. With this strength... and a good weapon in hand... she could do this. "Let me guess. So I don't break buildings when I try to pick up a teacup."

"Si."

The monster pushed itself up with those six spurs, and turned back to face her. Then it lowered its body, bending its legs...

It was going to charge her. She did not have the stride to get away, which meant...

She whirled away from it, ducking down to the man, and picking him up by the hair - uncomfortable, but he did not have any clothes to be grabbed by, and she needed a hand on her weapon. She was as gentle as she could be when she used that grip to throw him - he went pretty far, slamming against a tree about twenty meters away and flopping down face-first to the ground - but she still had clumps of hair in her fingers.

Maybe they were bloody too, but she did not have time to check, because that was about the moment that the monster barrelled into her. She could feel two of those spurs pressing into her back... and was rather surprised when they didn't penetrate, instead sending her flying through the trees.

One tree trunk snapped in half as her head smashed through it, before she managed to get her naginata into the ground and skid to a halt... and while she was aching, in her back, and her face... she was actually intact. This armour of Reconquista's was certainly something... especially since it was not actually over her face and yet had still protected it.. And she wasn't quite sure how those slip-on shoes had stayed on as she dug divots in the ground, but right now she ascribed it to magic and returned her focus to the monster.

Current distance... thirty meters. The monster was only twenty meters from its original victim, and faster to boot. And turning towards him... he was easier prey than Kanata was. At least he had those twenty meters she'd thrown him... but it was not enough.

Kanata did not so much 'plan' as 'just do it', launching into a flat-out run as she raised her naginata and flung it straight at the monster.

It hit, and lodged into its side. The monster reared back, hissing, uprooting another tree as it rocked back. But it was still up, and Kanata was now weaponless. She had not expected a kill, though, she just needed enough time.

She framed another naginata in her mind as she ran, and it extended into place in her hand. As soon as it was solid, she spun it once to adjust to the feel, then planted the butt into the ground, coiling up her legs.

The monster was turning back towards her... perfect.

Kanata had never pole-vaulted before outside gym class, but her acrobatics training with the naginata stood her in good stead, as she arced off the ground, hair fluttering behind her. She brought her polearm up and around, shifting her grip and aiming the blade down, right at the monster's face.

Committing to a move like this was a bad idea, but the monster was too tall to get at anything vital if it didn't attack as carelessly as it had last time. And she did not have the time to wear it down, that man was going to die if he did not recieve care soon.

She had timed it right. The monster did not have enough time to set up a defence, and as she landed on its face, between its skeletal limbs, she slammed her polearm's blade down - straight into its open mouth and down its throat

She was unsure what she'd hit, but she supposed it was something important, since the monster gurgled, and toppled over. Backwards, fortunately - she had slammed into it pretty hard, so that seemed to have given it enough momentum to not fall on her.

She rode it down, twisting the naginata's blade in the wound. The hit was good, but it was the twisting that did the real damage. Her instructors had always said it, and this first time she had plunged a live blade into a living being showed it to be true.

The monster flickered silver, and suddenly... it was no longer there. Kanata's eyes widened slightly as she fell the rest of the way to the ground, the other naginata in its side clattering down beside her. There was... a chewed pinkish lump nearby, too, that had fallen out of the monster's stomach. Which she refused to focus her gaze on.

She blinked, straightening up and looking around... "Um... Reconquista..." Nothing. She took a sniff... even the smell, just a moment ago near-overpowering, was completely gone.

"Se ha derrotado." 'It has been defeated.'

Kanata considered asking more... but had something more important to take care of. She tossed the naginata aside, and ran towards the man, tearing at her skirt. She had no idea how to bandage a wound like that, but...

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

06:02 Wednesday, June 14, 2017 CE
Cinigrad, Estovakia, Suvota Compact
Parliament Building


Svetlaya stepped into the office, and idly noted Alaya's presence as she saluted to the man at the desk. "I presume I am to be sent out with Admiral Alaya once more, sir?"

The man behind the desk - young-looking, with silvery hair trimmed short and the usual sharply-pointed ears... Prime Minister Zheleznyj himself... chuckled. "Correct, Colonel. At ease, please."

Svetlaya linked her hands behind her back and spread her feet to shoulder-width apart in the standard at-ease position. She did not bother looking around - Zheleznyj's office was very plain, most new interns mistook it for an unused room if he wasn't actually there, and more than one had tried to borrow his desk and chair.

He gaze flicked to Alaya, and noted that she was rather more relaxed... no surprise, Zheleznyj liked her.

Zheleznyj tapped one of his floating display screens with a finger, spinning it around for the officers' perusal. "Parliament's opposition to the Kievan-class ships has been muted to a dull roar. They're still annoyed about the cost, but since the design work was already done, and your test a few days ago proved that we need them to make effective use of Pluto, they're letting production go through. First three ships are already off the line."

Alaya blinked. "Already, sir?"

Zheleznyj nodded. "There were three Sakhalin-class reactor cores ready for use, and the rest was assembled via magic. Crews were already pretrained. Be careful with them, we rushed these three - we're running out of time, and need to step up the pace, or at least look like we're done."

"I suppose they're going to be put under my command, then?"

"For their shakedown cruise, yes, and you'll probably get to keep them." He gave the display screen a little nudge, and it floated over to Alaya, who started reading it. "The ships are Valery, Alexander, and Storozhevoy."

Svetlaya cocked her head. "Aren't those personal names, sir? Seems unusual for a ship."

Alaya nodded. "It's our contact. References to a story he likes. I suppose it's to get him feeling more charitable, which suggests we're going to be meeting again soon."

Zheleznyj grinned, brushing a bit of his silvery hair off his ears. "Quick. And yes, once you're satisfied with the crews' orientation into your squadron, I want you - both of you - to depart and pick up his next shipment. In bulk, as I said, we are very much running out of time."

Svetlaya frowned. "The TSA is pressing you, sir?"

Zheleznyj snorted. "The TSA, the Argene, even a few dozen representatives of the various Orusian successor states called us. A number of our decoy companies for dealing with the Argene are getting rooted out, so our mass-based engineering will be back to our own levels for a while, until Intelligence can get them built up again. It's no surprise, we expected this much when we unveiled it. Now we just need to make sure we can back up our subtle almost-threats, before we get called on them."

Alaya nodded. "Since they saw the test, that will slow them down... do you think that will be enough?"

Zheleznyj shook his head. "One's just a test. We need two to prove we have it in production, and could very well have a few on all our ships. Someone will make pushes, we fire, and then they'll back off for at least a few years while they try to figure out countermeasures. The best thing is, this weapon serves us far better than them, so even if they find out what it is..."

"And as long as we can keep everyone else on a defensive footing..."

"The Compact will remain secure."

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

07:14 Wednesday, June 14, 2017 CE
Tokyo, Japan, Earth - Non-Administrated World #97
Police Station, South Tower Seventh Block, Millenium City


The room was... quiet. Empty. Completely bare, but for the table, two chairs, and 'mirror' laid against one wall. Kanata herself sat quietly in one of the chairs, her body looking... very small, in a large men's shirt that looked, on her, more like a short and very unstylish dress.

Her eyes did not really wander... she had looked at the mirror for a bit, wondering if anyone was meeting her gaze behind the one-way glass, but mostly she had just kept them closed, lightly napping in the chair. She still had not grown tired, but there was nothing else to do.

She probably could have shortened the wait by telling just what she had seen, but she strongly suspected she would be thrown into a completely new - and padded - room if she tried that. There was no evidence... there wasn't even a body. She was borderline on convincing herself that she was still sane, convincing the police was another matter entirely...

Though she was not quite sure what would happen to her at this point. She knew she was the prime suspect right now. She would suspect herself, in these circumstances - even if she had burst out and got one of the nearby couples to call the ambulance, and then stayed to wait for them and the police, praying for the man... well. She had come out of the clearing where a man had just had an organ bit off, with blood on her mouth. She was the only person in the area, as far as could be proven - the monster had completely disappeared.

Still... that was in the hands of other people. Adults. She did not have a choice in the matter. And there were other things she could do.

'Reconquista... I need you to teach me more.' This kind of communication, at least, was fairly easy. She really would be thrown into an asylum if she started talking to herself.

'Le no satisfacen?'

'Satisfied... are you joking? That man was injured - possibly killed - because I paused and did not fully trust my senses. That blood was fresh... he was uninjured until after I arrived. I failed... if he survives, it will not have been my success, but the doctor's.'

'Es eso porque usted permitio su detencion, Anunciar?'

'Why I let myself get detain- no. There is no point in punishing myself for failure. Assuming I deserve to be arrested just makes me unable to help anyone else. I would have left, but... I wanted to make sure, whatever happened to him...' She shook her head. 'No... I just had to see, and at that point things probably would have gone worse if I had not let them take me. I am fairly recognizeable, and that would just bring trouble for Kaede-san and Saiko-san.'

'Entonces usted es insatisfecho con la batalla?'

'The battle... could have gone better, but I am not really dissatisfied with it. I need to improve some more, but... I am not asking so much because I am unsatisfied as because... there is nothing to suggest the next one will be any easier, or even that simple. And... I just want to learn. Super strength and that armour and healing are great starts, but... you can do more, can't you? I can do more.'

'Si.' His tone was... proud, this time. 'Le dare el acceso a los archivos en teoria magica basica. Ese sera el comienzo.'

'Files on magic theory...? ... At this point, I think I am actually ready to believe in magic, if only to have a word for... all this.'

His response was not verbal - rather, something was projected into her field of view, a page that... honestly, looked like it was out of a science textbook.

Kanata winced. Math and science were her worst subjects... Wait a minute. The summoning of armour and weapon... that was a transformation sequence. 'I'm a magical girl?!' She just buried her face in her hands.

"Headache?"

Kanata blinked, and looked up at the voice. It was the detective who had been questioning her earlier... his short brown hair was looking a little more messy than it had before... she hoped he had slept. Given his five-o'clock shadow and the rumpled state of his dress shirt, she did not really think he got enough time to take care of himself as it was, and then her case had sprung up right around when he would probably go home... "Arisato-san, how is he...?"

The detective raised an eyebrow, and pulled out a seat across the table from her. "Fine... well, as well as can be expected. He's conscious, and recovering fairly well. Little anemic, but he'll recover once he's got some more blood in him. You did a decent job on the first aid." He sat down.

Kanata held up her hands, shaking her head. "No... I really had no idea, I just knew I had to stop the bleeding..."

"Still. You remembered to keep him breathing, and managed to stop the bleeding in his main air passage at the same time - that's not bad for someone with first aid training, let alone without. And more importantly, he survived."

Kanata blushed. "I... still do not think I did anything that well, but... I am glad he is oka... as okay as he is likely to ever get..."

Arisato leaned back in his chair, scratching at the stubble on his cheek. "Your clothes are a loss, though. What you didn't rip and press against the wound is soaked in blood, and let me tell you, those stains never come out. You can keep the shirt, for what it's worth. Sorry we don't have any clothes appropriate to a sixteen-year-old girl around here."

Kanata nodded quietly.

Arisato exhaled heavily, and leaned forward. "I don't suppose you're going to tell me any more?"

Kanata shook her head. "Arisato-san... I told you all I know. I was taking a walk and came across him bleeding... I did what I could, then ran to get help."

Arisato frowned, shaking his head. "Well... your story checks out. About an hour ago, Adachi-san came down here from the hospital, popped into there." He pointed at the one-way mirror. "He can't really talk now, obviously, but he wrote that it wasn't you - said he recognized you as the one who saved him."

Kanata blinked. How much had he seen...? Enough to know...? "Um..."

"So you're cleared, congratulations."

"Um... please forgive me if I don't feel much like celebrating..."

Arisato nodded. "Fair enough. Though, I'll say the docs are a little hopeful about reattaching his tongue. It's not in great shape, but it's all there, so he may just make a full recovery." He stood. "As far as you're concerned, someone's here to pick you up."

Kanata blinked. "How did they... you... know...?" She hadn't given them any contact information! Just her name, and there should have been no way to trace that any further than his dead body...

He shrugged. "They reported you missing, we explained where you were." He walked back to the room's door, and opened it.

A tall, powerfully-built man of about twenty-two - black-haired, blue-eyed, wearing a white jacket - stepped in, holding up a hand in a short wave.

Kanata blinked. "Uh... I don't-"

The man nodded. "Luka Mesic. I'm one of your other housemates, you didn't meet me yet."

Arisato raised an eyebrow, glancing between them.

"She just moved into the shrine yesterday," Luka explained. "Though... I've got to admit, she does an even better job at getting started on disciplinary action than Sara did. The cops, in one day?"

Kanata flushed, averting her eyes.

"Just teasing, sorry if I made you uncomfortable."

Kanata shook her head, looking back up. "No... it is okay..."

Arisato leaned against the wall next to the door, folding his arms. "Is this something I should know about?" His gaze drifted towards Kanata's neck, and the bandages wrapped around it - she had refused to let anyone take them off.

Luka paused, and turned to him. "Not yet, at least. If it is, you'll be the first we tell."

Arisato gnawed on his lip. "... Right. I'm trusting Kaede-san on this. If there's anything that needs to be brought to justice, I don't want the trail to go cold."

"The feelings involved are just as-"

"I know, Mesic-san. That's why I'm trusting you guys on this right now."

Kanata had a fairly good idea what they were talking about and suspecting... she considered denying it... but then, she might have to show them the mass on her neck.

Arisato waved a hand. "Feel free to take her out. Bathrooms are on the way if you've got clothes for her."

Luka snorted. "Sara's nearby, of course I do."

Arisato winced.

Kanata stood - a little unsteady at first since she had been sitting still for almost eight hours, but she gained her balance quickly. She was starting to get a little worried about this 'Sara'...

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

"You sure this's a good idea, Arisato-san?"

Arisato Minato just gave his juniour partner - Inui Shinji - a half-lidded look, and lit the cigarette dangling in his mouth. He puffed once, and inhaled the sweet, sweet scent of narcotics. Once he was done, he lowered the cigarette, and looked forward, from the station's wall. "Best option at the moment, Inui."

"Arisato-san... she hasn't told us everything. She was lying."

Minato chuckled. "Yeah, she sucks at that, doesn't she? Fact remains, she's not guilty - the victim explicitly identified her as his saviour, not his attacker."

"Sir, the victim... I'm not sure that testimony is viable... And everything we have points to her. There was no one else there."

"Have? We have nothing. We don't even have the assault weapon."

Shinji stared for a moment, and sputtered. "There are two naginata with her fingerprints on them!"

"And if he had one injury from a blade, I'd have her behind bars so fast your head would spin. He doesn't. Only one injury, and you just can't do that with a polearm."

Shinji snorted. "Sure, but you can do it with teeth, remember the blood in her mouth?"

Minato nodded. "You haven't caught the news from forensics, huh? The blood was her own. And the tongue, while it does bear marks similar to being chewed on, did not take them from teeth anything like human ones - they compared it to a hyena. Or have any saliva on it - it's like it was never in a mouth. Not even his."

"So... some kind of jaw-shaped machine?" Shinji didn't sound like he really believed that theory, but it did fit the facts they had.

Minato shrugged. "Possible. Either way... this is definite wierd shit."

"I thought you being spook squad at your last posting was a rumour."

"Of course it is. Ghosts don't exist."

"Sir, a guy's tongue got bit out by something that apparently never put it in a mouth, and the only witness is a girl with positively freaky eyes who won't talk, and who bled from a wound that she doesn't have. The scene of the crime has a bunch of trees that look like they got knocked over by sheer blunt force, and huge dents in the ground that I'm a little creeped to think about. At this point, I'd at least consider the possibility. I seriously won't laugh at whatever you tell me right now."

Minato snickered. "Like I told you, ghosts don't exist. There are plenty of other phenomena, some pretty damn freaky, that can be mistaken for ghosts, but ghosts themselves? Nah. And she might have the wound." He tapped his neck.

Shinji's eyes widened. "Wait... those bandages. Are you saying she-?"

"No, I don't think it's related. They were clean. Old wound. Possibly child abuse, but not from last night."

"Child a- ... Huh?"

Minato glanced at Shinji. "She's staying at the shrine up on the top block. And her records had a 'missing' tag on them a lot longer than a day. She's probably a runaway."

"Sir... everything you say makes it seem more important that we get her to talk."

Minato nodded. "And it is. Problem is," he took another drag of his cigarette, "that she has no reason to talk to us. Everything on the file indicated a severe distrust of authority figures - dealt with lots of bad ones. We just hammer away at this, and she'll close up even tighter."

Shinji clenched his jaw, and nodded. "... Right, sir."

"Don't worry, she's not totally off the hook yet. But we know where she lives, and we can sneak some observation in without a warrant - I don't know about you, but I'm feeling pretty religious with a case like this." He glanced at Shinji.

Who, to his credit, got it pretty quickly. He didn't look that happy about it, though. "Sir, that is ille-"

"Borderline. We won't intrude. This really is just an occassional checkup. I could probably get more by having her followed, but that really would require a warrant. Either way, we are supposed to get to know the people in our jurisdiction. I'm just picking one in particular."

Shinji sighed, letting his head fall back against the station wall with a thunk. "Fine. Seems a pretty troubled kid anyway. Just as long as I don't have to meet her eyes... that stare is creepy."

Minato snorted. "Just as long as you don't tell her that, clear?"

"Please. I'm not a complete social reject, and the kid's skittish enough as is."

"One other thing."

Shinji blinked, glancing over at Minato. "Yes sir?"

"What was that crack about the victim's testimony not being viable? He seems pretty coherent, all told. More coherent than some people who haven't had their tongues bit out."

"Probably because he has to slow down to write. Actually has to think about what he's saying."

"Inui."

Shinji pursed his lips. "Okay... you saw the message he wrote out in the viewing room, right? Identifying her as the girl who'd saved him, saying she wasn't the attacker?"

"Of course."

"Right, well I was the one waiting for him at the hospital... that wasn't his first story. He changed it when he saw the look on my face."

Minato lowered his cigarette, turning to his partner. "... What was the first story?"

Shinji sighed, looking at the ground. "It seemed insane at the time... I hadn't heard the freakier stuff yet."

Minato just raised an eyebrow.

Shinji took a deep breath. "Okay... I don't honestly know, but it was something about his date turning into a monster, and getting saved by a magical girl..."

Minato tsked, and took another drag from his cigarette. "Inui, we have just entered Wierdshitville. This is the stuff all those spook squad rumours came from."

"I was afraid you were going to say that."

"From here, you follow my lead, and don't ask questions until we're in private."

Shinji closed his eyes, and nodded. "Right... here's hoping this isn't a sign for my future career."

"For now, go get some coffee. I've got a call to make."

Shinji nodded, pushing himself off the wall, and brushed the dirt off his hands as he walked away.

Minato put out his cigarette against the station wall, and pulled his cellphone from his pocket... yup, still on speed dial. He started the call, and pressed it to his ear.

Familiar male voice. "Hello, Takamachi residence."

"Yo, Shirou."

"Minato? Wow... it's been two years, hasn't it? How's Tokyo treating you?"

Minato winced. "Unfortunately, this isn't a social call... do you know if I can get in contact with your daughter?"

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

Kanata stepped out of the bathroom, face red. She tried to tug the short skirt down a bit further, but it was as fruitless as before.

Luka restrained his wolf whistle to a short one. Kanata might have held it against him, but given that the girl at his side managed to get hers to last a full three seconds... he looked pretty good by comparison.

The girl was small, and thin. Maybe fifteen? Pale, too - an albino, with outright red eyes and white hair, tied back into a bun other than two long locks left free. Dressed in a school uniform - short black skirt, short-sleeved black shirt, sailor-style collar, deep red bow. While modified a bit (that skirt probably wasn't regulation) and the short-sleeved summer version, it was the same uniform as she had borrowed from Saiko... she supposed school was going to start soon.

The girl clapped her hands together as she finished her whistle. "Perfect! It fits, right? Right?"

"Um... yes..." Kanata looked down. While she definitely would not dress like this given the choice, it fit, and she supposed it was trendy, though she was horrendous with fashion. To be honest... she looked good. She had checked herself out in the mirror until she realized she was checking herself out, and that was precisely the problem. She was nowhere near comfortable enough with... all this... to be at all prepared to have peoples' eyes on her, considering her as a potential...

She stumbled, catching herself on the corridor wall until it stopped wavering around her.

The girl frowned, stepping up to Kanata. "You okay with the shoes?"

They actually were fairly reasonable... the heel was lowish, and while she hadn't ever walked in any kind of heeled shoe before, the adjustment was easy enough for her. "Yes, they're fine..." A little too... well, good-looking for her tastes, but... "Isn't this all... a bit much?"

The girl planted her hands on her hips. "Hey now. There is nothing that's too much for our new housemate, clear?"

Luka raised a hand. "Speaking as a mostly-neutral party, Sara's tastes in fashion are actually reasonably restrained. She just likes to play dressup."

Sara turned to him. "Well, I don't hear you complaining."

"... Why would I? Three - well, four now - attractive girls, women, and assorted in-betweens are sharing living space with me, and you make 'em look good."

Kanata rubbed her eyes. This was exactly the problem... he seemed nice enough, but...

Luka pursed his lips. "You know, if I make you uncomfortable, just tell me, okay? I mean... I'll look. I can't really not look unless you want me to close my eyes."

"And what a sight that was," Sara added, snickering.

"... Yeah, Saiko actually did ask. Blundered around for a week before she let me open my eyes..." He mumbled to himself. "But as I was saying! I don't want to make you feel uncomfortable, so if I do, tell me so I can tone it down. I'll even pull the close-eyes trick if you ask."

Kanata swallowed. "Um... it is okay..."

Sara peered up at Kanata. "You know, you can tone down the formality, neither of us is royalty. Unless Luka's been holding out on me." He just shook his head with a chuckle.

Kanata swallowed. "This is... just how I speak... I am not taking special care or anything of the sort..."

Sara just sighed. "If you say so... Anyway, morning and suchlike. I'm Sara Lucchini." She proceeded to perform a strange hybrid maneuver that looked like a simultaneous bow and curtsy.

Rather than try to imitate her, Kanata just bowed in return - remembering to keep her hands folded in her lap, this time. She was still rather unsure what to make of, well, being a girl, but she should at least pass as one, and that included bowing in the correct way. "Shirahime Kanata."

Luka coughed into a hand. "And unless we hurry this a bit, Miss Lucchini is going to be late for school."

"Awww, come on, I wanna talk more!"

"Then come home on time."

She held up a finger. "You... I... damn your infernal logics. I'll beat them one of these days."

Luka bowed - not a Japanese-style bow, but a courtly exaggerated European one. "As always, the challenge remains open, my princess." He nodded to Kanata. "Come on."

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

_________________
"There is very little that cannot be solved through the proper application of immense levels of firepower."


Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:26 pm
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Cherub

Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2005 2:17 pm
Posts: 33
Location: Toronto
Post Re: Art of Love, Art of Death (Magical Girl Nanoha Fanfic)
08:03 Friday, June 16, 2017 CE
Amur Oblast, Russian Federation, Earth - Non-Administrated World #97
Vostochny Cosmodrome


"Sir, radar's picking up something in the upper atmosphere... could you take a look? I don't know if it's..."

Lieutenant-General Viktor Sakharov looked up, and strode over to the man's console, leaning over to take a look at the display. He nodded, brushing his hair back out of his eyes. "Yes, it's a TSA ship. XV-class. Probably investigators about that matter they called our liason on."

The juniour officer - Lieutenant Mikhalkov - looked back at him. "Should I contact Mister Valensk-"

"Don't bother." Sakharov continued watching the sensor display. "The TSA won't be dropping their team down here. Japan. Japan's more receptive to them than most of the Far East, so they'll be using that as their base of investigation." He tapped the screen with a slim finger. "Those two are the ones you should be watching."

Mikhalkov blinked. "Sir...? Those are micrometeorites. They'll burn in the upper atmosphere before they hit anything."

Sakharov shook his head, smirking. "Take a closer look. They're moving exactly parallel. Formation flight."

The officer's eyes widened as he looked again. "Okay... that's strange, sir, but are you sure it's not just a coincidence...?"

Sakharov chuckled, tapping one of the signatures. "If it were just this one, I wouldn't be. He's good. Completely indistinguishable from a meteor. However, this one..." He pointed to the other. "Changed course a bit."

Mikhalkov peered down at the screen. "... Are you sure, sir? They seem to be moving exactly parallel."

"That, my young friend, is because he then corrected his course. Meteorites don't do that." He patted the Lieutenant on the shoulder, and walked away. Kid was new to the job, but he already knew the important bit - namely, hassle him whenever he didn't get it.

Sakharov pursed his lips. And Strigon was going to be in in a matter of days... maybe even today. This would be a problem. He'd have to make the meeting just so they didn't drop in directly...

He sighed as he made his rounds of the command center, starting up his music player and slipping the earbuds in, quietly repeating after the singer: "Soyuz nerushimy respublik svobodnyk, splotila naveki velikaya Rus..."

It was a dream that hadn't died yet. Not as long as he was around. And he planned on staying around until it was fulfilled.

He'd have to accellerate the rest of his plans, too... this was going to get ugly.

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

08:30 Friday, June 16, New Calendar Year 0076 (2017 CE)
Tokyo, Japan, Earth - Non-Administrated World #97
Suzuka Tsukimura's Apartment


Teana looked down, and laid her hands on her hips. It seemed she was pinned. Something had walked over her feet and proceeded to sit on them.

Some kind of strange furry creature about the size of her thigh - presumably a local species, since she'd never seen it before. The fur was blueish-gray... slightly rounded head, triangular ears sticking up. It looked up at her with rather large blue eyes, and opened its mouth, exposing some rather long canines. Clearly a meat-eater. "Nyaaaaauuuu."

Teana raised a hand. "Um... Fate, Captain... is it welcoming me or threatening me?" She looked around at the rest - Fate and Nanoha were checking over Vivio (who was looking wide-eyed around the room, though it was a little featureless - someone had taken care to make it a good teleport-dropoff, after all), and Shari was covering a snicker at her situation. Vice and everyone else had gone to an alternate teleport point.

Nanoha smiled, ducking down and stroking another one of the creatures as it wound between her feet. Hers was... a lot less plump than the one that had parked itself on Teana. "It's a cat. Don't worry, she likes you."

"Nyau." The... cat, she supposed... rubbed its head against her leg.

Teana hesitantly bent down and patted its head. Having known Subaru this long, she could pretty easily read that desire for attention. A rolling, rumbling sound built up around its throat, and Teana paused, pulling her hand back... was it growling at her?

It slammed its head into her leg, surprisingly hard for such a small creature. "Nyauuuu."

Fate covered her mouth with a hand as she giggled. "That means she likes it."

Teana rubbed her shin slightly, and then resumed patting the creature's head. "So now I'm being bossed around by an alien the size of my arm. Interesting new, yet familiar, experience. Also, my legs are going to go numb if it sits here much longer."

Shari didn't bother covering this snicker. "Well... just say hello to your friend for now, I don't think we're in much rush at the moment. I still have to hear back on our long-term lodgings."

Fate nodded. "They should be ready by the end of the day, and Albion is leaving now. So for now... I suppose free time. Rest and recover from the transit lag. Set up tonight, and get started on the investigation tomorrow morning. Everyone has my signal - be at my position by 1900 local time - that's in ten and a half hours. Call if you have any questions."

Teana nodded. She supposed she'd look around and play tourist, since the last time she'd been to this world she hadn't really had much free time... as soon as she could get this thing off of her.

It closed its eyes, rumbling some more at her patting.

Which might take a while.

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

08:45 Friday, June 16, 2017 CE
Tokyo, Japan, Earth - Non-Administrated World #97
Sentoshi Mori, South Tower Fourteenth Block, Millennium City


Kanata rubbed her eyes. She would need to stop in at the cathedral soon... She wanted to confess for the past week... which she might have to rephrase to keep from getting locked in an asylum, which of course added more to confess to...

Still... right now she had chores to take care of... though sweeping the shrine did not exactly take up all her brainpower.

"Yo."

Kanata did not jump as Kaede's voice sounded behind her - she had caught the woman's scent before she was anywhere near. She turned slightly - Kaede was dressed in regular clothes. "Going out, Kaede-san?"

Kaede nodded. "Yup. You okay to take care of the place?"

Kanata's eyes widened as she stopped sweeping. "Um... are you sure...? I mean, I have only been here for a few days..." Saiko and Sara had already left for school, and Luka for... something. They already trusted her to be alone here...?

Kaede shrugged. "Yeah, well, you know where everything is, and I won't be off too long. Need to get a few more things arranged for you."

Kanata blinked, cocking her head. "For me...? Um... what do you mean, Kaede-san?"

"Ah... you haven't heard yet?"

"I do not believe so."

Kaede fiddled with the twist her red hair was tied into. "Well, Detective Arisato noticed you haven't been going to school for a while... he kind of insisted that unless there was a real problem, you should go. Offered to help if there was one, too. I was just heading down to Millenium South High School to make sure your records were transferred, though, well, attending's up to you."

Kanata frowned. "I see... Um, wait... my records?"

Kaede nodded. "Yeah, though I promise I didn't peek. Anyway... think about it, it's your choice." She waved, and walked off.

Leaving Kanata to stand there, knuckles white as she gripped her broom. "I... have a legal identity. ... Why do I have a legal identity?" It didn't make sense... she had been born male, and he had died, there should be no paper trail whatsoever...

There was a laugh. A familiar one.

Kanata froze.

"What? You thought just because you lost your old life, you wouldn't get a new one?"

Kanata slowly turned... yes. It was the woman from the Sunday night dream... dressed in her motley-coloured patches as before. "... Exactly how much power do you have?"

The woman covered her mouth as she giggled, leaning back... reclining in midair. "Oh, I just know the right people."

"What happened to...?"

She laughed, waving a hand dismissively. "Nothing, don't worry, total fabrication. Shirahime Kanata's a pretty rare name anyway, would've been way more effort to find a real one and doctor things up."

Kanata frowned, nodding. "And... those monsters..."

"I'm honestly surprised, I thought you'd be asking about the girling first." She flipped upside-down.

Kanata shook her head. "That is... distracting, but... not as important."

"Ah, well, the answer to that one is that I only have so many bodies available. What about the monsters?"

"That is... exactly it. What are they? Where are they coming from? Why did they disappear?"

The woman tsked, straightening up and waving her finger. "Nononono. Most of this is way too far ahead for you. Still, I can tell you a little. Want it?"

Kanata clenched her jaw, and nodded, wrapping a hand around her cross. "Please." She needed something. This was all going too fast...

"All right, the basis is, they're beings who are not permitted to exist in this world." She waved a hand to make her point. "There's a... seal, I guess, though really they slammed a universe on top of it... anyway. The seal's been weakening in the past eleven years. Though even now, only the strongest-willed of them can slip out. Inconveniently, that makes them too independent for their masters to call them off, and they go wild." She held up a finger. "Break the will, and the seal catches up with them. Every piece of them vanishes from this world - which as you recall, produced a few problems for you a couple days ago."

Kanata nodded shortly. "But... what are they?"

The woman shrugged, brushing a bright blue patch on her shoulder clear of imaginary dust. "You lack the frame of reference to understand the actual case, so I guess I'll go with metaphor... Think of them as the creators of the Tower of Babel - they rose too close to God, and their hubris caught up with them."

Kanata paused. "That is completely-"

The woman cut her off with an upraised finger. "I said metaphor. It's not actually Babel or anything like that, you wouldn't have heard the actual story. But this gives you a few parallels that're reasonably appropriate." She tapped the ground with her foot. "Anyway... gotta go."

Kanata blinked, and she was gone. "Wait!"

"By the way," her voice sounded from behind Kanata.

Kanata whirled, but there was nothing there.

"Stop thinking of me as 'the woman'." Behind her again... Kanata did not turn this time. "Come up with an amusing nickname, seriously. Patches? Chuckles?" She laughed once more.

Kanata exhaled deeply. That woman could apparently read minds... which was not much of a stretch given how easy mind-to-mind transmission had been. "Is Calaritana all right?"

There was another laugh. "After the Saint of Cagliari, Mister Calaritanus? You do know your history."

Kanata closed her eyes. "It was one of my best subjects. You are not offended?"

"It's kinda funny, actually. Saint Lucifer, eh? Not a bad nickname. Buh-bye."

The air suddenly felt... lighter. Easier to breathe... there was no longer a presence nearby.

Kanata took another heavy breath, stroking the cross in her hand. What kind of deal had she made? And... with who? Or what?

The worst part was... she was going to go ahead. She had to. These monsters were most definitely attacking people... and she had no idea if anyone else could even find them.

"Que usted esta pensando?" 'What are you thinking?'

Kanata shook her head, dropping her cross. "It is not important... That train of thought did not lead anywhere." Actually... she wanted to be doing something. Working off her worries a little bit. "Reconquista... could you please activate simulation mode?"

"Usted desea practicar? Panorama?" 'You wish to practice? Scenario?'

"Mm... surprise me."

In the back of her head, a forest appeared... She could see both that world, and the shrine that she was sweeping.

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

09:04 Friday, June 16, 2017 CE
Tokyo, Japan, Earth - Non-Administrated World #97
Police Station, South Tower Seventh Block, Millenium City


Fate paused as she saw Detective Arisato waiting at the front of the station, holding a suit jacket over his shoulder.

He raised his free hand in a wave, and strolled towards her. "Morning, Fate-chan. I hear you just got in? How was the flight?"

Fate smiled, and bowed. "Uneventful, Arisato-sensei. I'm still adjusting to the time zone again."

He waved a hand, walking away from the station. Fate followed.

"Well, you know me. For what, eight years now? Damn that makes me feel old."

Fate covered a giggle. "Yes... you never do remember to call unless it's work-related."

"Please, my daughter's already told me that a thousand times... don't need to hear it from everyone. How's investigating in the great void between dimensions working out?"

Fate paused, but decided not to correct him on it. "Well enough. I just resolved a long-running case a few months ago, so..." She shrugged.

"And you're almost as workaholic as me. And Nanoha-chan's even worse. Another case brought you back home, I presume."

Fate nodded. "I can't give you the details of course..."

"Yeah, please don't, unless I can help you out, like we did back in Uminari. This is my turn to call in support." He slipped a cigarette in his mouth... glanced at her, and put it away again.

"What's wrong?"

He led her down the pathway, frowning deeply, and looked around furtively - there was nobody within earshot. "Three blocks down. There was an assault case in the park. It looked open-shut at first, but forensics proved our suspect hadn't done it, and the victim woke up and spun a story about a monster and a magical girl - our suspect - protecting him."

Fate frowned. "A monster...? There are a few ways to do that, what kind?"

"Couldn't say. Vic got his tongue bit off, fainted from blood loss and didn't get a real good view. Frankly if the forensics didn't back it up a bit, I'd write him off as delirious."

Fate winced at the description. "Will he recover?"

"Dunno. The docs sewed it back on, and they're hopeful, but that's as far as I know. Like I said... the forensics backed up his story. Trees were knocked over, there were dents in the ground... Suspect had blood in her mouth, but it was her own. And the supposed monster? Nada. Didn't even leave saliva."

Fate nodded. "That sounds like a creature from another world, or maybe a golem, and an unknown mage who fought it... what was the suspect's story?" She brushed a branch away from her head.

"Stonewall. Claimed she arrived after the action, we do know she performed first aid and called the hospital for him. We couldn't press her - file indicated a distrust of authority figures, and we kept her around for eight hours without her story changing one bit. Can't keep her face straight, but damn she can keep the story straight. Kinda like that time I locked you up."

Fate blushed. "What was I supposed to say? You didn't know anything about the case, or even the background of the case."

"Or the universe, at the time. So I'm thinking she may be like you, thinking I won't believe her story anyway. I'll give the kid a bit more nudging from my end, but I wanted to see if any of my facts rang bells for you."

"Mm... well, it's at least possible from my end, but I don't think I can give you any good answers just yet."

"Didn't think so." He pulled a small flash drive out of his pocket, and flicked it in her direction - she caught it on reflex. Pink casing...? He really had no idea how to deal with girls, did he? "That's got most of my case details. Names excluded, of course, along with most identifiers, as usual. Picture of the girl, though, in case you recognize her. Get back to me as soon as you can."

Fate pursed her lips. "I've actually got an apprentice here at the moment... mind if I attach her to your investigation? She knows most of what I do about the parts you need - more, actually, her education and retention rate are rather spectacular - and could learn a lot from you, as well."

Arisato looked at her, gnawing on his lower lip. "... What the hell. You just make sure she follows my orders if necessary - I don't want your Space-Time Administrative laws mixing up with local ones, I'll catch a lot of heat if something goes wrong."

Fate nodded, bowing to him. "She is very professional, but I will be certain to pass that on."

Arisato mumbled something about double-nuggets, and waved, heading back to the station.

Fate returned the wave. Conversations with Arisato-sensei tended to go like that. She never could tell if his slang was too old for her, or if he just made it up on the spot, either. "I'll have her meet you tomorrow."

He grunted an acknowledgement, waving again.

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

09:15 Friday, June 16, 2017 CE
Tokyo, Japan, Earth - Non-Administrated World #97
Thirteenth Block, Heliport, Millenium City


In the end, Teana had won her freedom by just shoving the 'cat' off - it had flopped around a bit, then 'nyauuu'-ed at her a bit more, seeming more bothered by her leaving than by getting shoved around. And her legs had gone numb temporarily... the thing was heavy.

She'd considered the 'tourism' thing a bit more, and honestly... when she looked out the apartment's window, she sort of changed her mind. The whole city was far too large to really wander around with any hope of getting in on time.

Thus why she had flown (invisible) towards the huge mass of three towers, and landed on the platform that linked them all, decloaking once she was somewhere that wouldn't attract attention. They were supposedly going to be staying here, so she may as well wander around their lodgings and get a decent idea of the lay of the land.

Of course, if Subaru had been here, she'd be getting dragged from one sight to another. Especially given that the cyborg girl's adopted father was descended from this planet.

Teana smirked, pulling out Cross Mirage - in card form, obviously. "Get a few pictures, would you? Subaru'll love 'em."

"Yes."

"Might not want to talk to your Device too much, they don't have that level of AI over here."

Teana glanced back over her shoulder. "Good morning, Sergeant."

Vice laughed, scratching the back of his head. "You know, I think you outrank me at this point. Or are at least in a separate chain of command. I don't mind if you call me Vice."

Teana looked around the platform - she hadn't thought she'd seen Vice's helicopter, but...

"Looking for Storm Raider?"

Teana blinked, meeting his gaze again, and nodded.

Vice pointed at a... rather different-looking helicopter. It definitely didn't look like the JF-704's normal appearance - much more rounded, and maybe a little smaller, everything was sloped... to be honest, it looked a lot nicer. Though Storm Raider's normally-unattractive edges and angles could look rather damned pretty when he was coming in for support. "She's under disguise right now, since any connoisseur of aircraft would be able to tell her normal appearance isn't really a local design."

Teana nodded, turning her attention back to Vice... he looked unnatural out of uniform, somehow. He wore those fatigues way too much when a simple civilian shirt and pants looked so strange on him. "... Connoisseur of aircraft?"

Vice shrugged. "Sure you wouldn't find many in a random population sample, but this is a heliport - I'd bet you a week's salary that in a collection of pilots and mechanics, you'd have more trouble finding someone who doesn't like 'em."

"That was more about your word choice than the concept. Isn't a connoisseur an expert in... art, or food?"

Vice clapped a hand over his heart, looking pained. "Come on, what's more artistic than a well-made helicopter?"

Teana looked back at the heliport... and shook her head. "I don't see it. A lot of glass bulbs." Storm Raider's new form was honestly the best-looking of the lot.

"Well, okay, this is a civilian heliport, but this planet has some sweet designs - this was just a bad sample selection."

Teana raised an eyebrow, leaning back against a wall. "When'd you become an expert on this planet's technology, anyway?"

Vice coughed.

"I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you."

He cleared his throat. "Colonel Yagami tossed me a few pictures to drum up my interest in the mission... I spent a few days doing research." He tapped the blued-steel tag fastened at his neck, and Teana blinked as Storm Raider transferred the images to Cross Mirage.

Large... but pretty thin, stubby wings at either side, five rotors at the top, with two glass bubbles over the cockpit at the front giving it a vaguely insectile appearance... "... Vice, that is possibly the ugliest thing I have ever seen crafted by the hands of man."

Vice tsked, slipping the tag back under his shirt. "You lack a pilot's aesthetics. But I guess I'll spare you the rant on it."

Teana smiled. "That's appreciated."

"Don't appreciate it too much, I could change my mind any time. So, drifted in this early?"

Teana nodded. "I considered tourism, but..." She waved at the positively sprawling view of the city from the towers they were presently on. "I have no idea where to go or what to look at, and I'm not familiar with the mass transit system. It'd just devolve into wandering around the city, so I thought I may as well do it around where we were going to stay."

Vice chuckled, nodding. "Mind if I tag along?"

Teana just gave him a half-lidded stare. "You never learned the language, did you?"

He grinned. "Caught me. I need a translator to really sightsee."

Teana just shook her head, smiling. "Fine, may as well have some company. Where'd you want to go first?"

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

09:26 Friday, June 16, 2017 CE
Tokyo, Japan, Earth - Non-Administrated World #97
South Tower Seventh Block, Millenium City


Nanoha looked up from the store's display as Bardiche 'pinged' Raging Heart. "Fate-chan, there you are."

Fate smiled a little weakly.

Vivio turned, and blinked, before tugging at Nanoha's skirt. "Mama... what's wrong with Fate-mama?"

Nanoha patted Vivio's hair, just looking at Fate, eyebrow raised.

Fate sighed. "Arisato-sensei needed some help... I looked through the files, and it's a bit of an unpleasant case. It's not really directly a problem... I'm just a little queasy."

Nanoha planted her hands on her hips. "He's not dragging you in on another case, is he?"

Fate brought up her hands. "No, no, I'm just checking some facts he's not familiar with. Actually, I'm assigning Teana to help him with it... she'll learn a lot from him. So I'm completely severed." Her face went a bit green at that.

Nanoha frowned. Must have reminded herself of one of the details. "I hope so, you're short enough on free time as it is. Now that we're actually on the same planet, I'd like to spend some time together."

Fate nodded. "Of course, absolutely nothing more than fact-checking, maybe tossing some files out for reference. To be honest, with Teana taking care of it, I probably don't even need to do that much."

"So then... back to our ten-hour vacation. I don't think you're feeling hungry, so we'll skip the snack for now... is that all right, Vivio-chan?"

Vivio nodded solemnly.

Fate smiled. "Thank you... So what do you think of this place so far?"

Nanoha chuckled, taking Vivio's hand and starting down the path - right now they were just walking past storefronts and window-shopping. "It's pretty cool." It had been lucky they could pass it by the head office, too - but it really was one of the more convenient places to base their operations out of, with easy access to pretty much everything, a heliport within less than a hundred meters of their lodgings, and local government buildings and records either in the nearby tower, or a short flight into the city. The fact that it had also been one of Japan's more famous landmarks recently, and one Nanoha and Fate had never seen before, was just extra.

Vivio pointed to the right, a little further in, where a rail track circled around the block. "There's a train. Indoors."

Fate chuckled, patting Vivio's head and taking her other hand. "Yes, construction like this isn't really common on Midchilda. There are less people there, so they don't really need buildings that comfortably fit so many... though in Argene space, they have a lot of these."

Nanoha nodded. The TSA Ground Headquarters was similar in size, but it had been built less because it needed to be that tall, and more because they could make it that big. Midchilda had a lot of unused space, so there wasn't any crunch forcing people to build up, it was just to impress people. "Anything in particular you wanted to see, Fate-chan?"

Fate waved her free hand. "Nothing specific, I just thought I'd wander with you. Vivio?"

Vivio cocked her head. "Um... the library?"

Fate and Nanoha traded looks. Neither of them had any real distaste for studying, but... it wasn't really their idea of fun. Well... it contributes to a healthy growing mind, I guess.

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

11:45 Friday, June 16, 2017 CE
Tokyo, Japan, Earth - Non-Administrated World #97
Sentoshi Mori, South Tower Fourteenth Block, Millennium City


Vice shaded his eyes with a hand - since they were now on the top block of the tower, the sun was visible again, and bright as ever. He took in the place before him for a moment - there was a thin ring of parkland around it, but most of this uppermost block's central area was dedicated to a collection of buildings that served... some purpose, he supposed. Surrounded by a fence, with an opening nearby - it seemed someone would have to pass through a red-painted archway to get into the complex.

He glanced at Teana, who was holding up her Cross Mirage card to take a picture. "What do you think this place is?"

Teana shrugged, slipping Cross Mirage away again. "I couldn't say. The architecture looks a bit different from the rest of the city... maybe it's a foreign style? Could be an embassy." She looked around a bit more, starting to walk again. "I'm kind of curious now, everything else was pretty plainly commercial or residential."

Vice nodded, and followed. Of course, he'd need to have her tell him whatever it was she found out... he had, thus far, had no luck figuring out what exactly all the strange scribbles and lines meant. Bit embarrassing since he'd known people from this country for nine years now...

Teana stepped under the archway, and paused.

Vice frowned and stepped up beside her. He was about to ask 'What's up?', when he felt it himself - they'd just stepped into a zone spell of some kind. Vice stepped back, just to see if they were locked in - they weren't, so he stepped forward again. He brought a finger up to his neck to tap Storm Raider, get her recording and find out what it was.

Teana frowned, looking around. 'Do you feel that? There's something strong here... there's so much magic in the air I can't pick anything out.'

Vice closed his eyes, and then nodded. 'Yeah... doesn't seem to be doing anything, though. Maybe a local mage lives here?'

'Mm... well, they said there aren't many, but considering Captain Takamachi and Colonel Yagami came from this planet, I guess the few there are have a lot of mana.' Teana gestured a bit forward, where a girl, dressed in a sort of long red folded skirt, and white folded top, seemed to be sweeping the stone pathway ahead of them - she hadn't seemed to notice their presence yet. 'She might know something... though I guess we can't ask directly. Why exactly is magic a secret on this planet?'

Vice moved to keep up with her as she went down the path. 'Not totally sure... I know the local governments requested full secrecy, but I couldn't say why.'

Teana nodded, and looked a little put out as they stepped closer to the girl - she was still looking down at the path, sweeping carefully and precisely. "Excuse me?"

The girl jolted, swinging her broom up, grip shifting as if she were holding a weapon...

Had it actually been a spear, Vice would probably be seriously injured right now. As it was, he was just spitting pieces of straw out of his mouth. "Always wondered what brooms tasted like. Now I know."

The girl blushed heavily, lowering the broom. She shouted something in a somewhat exciteable tone of voice, before bending at the waist, bowing to him repeatedly.

Vice glanced at Teana. "Um..."

Teana covered a chuckle... and had a bit more trouble doing so when she saw his face. He had pieces of the broom stuck on, didn't he? "She's apologizing... I think."

The girl straightened up. "Ah... you do not speak Japanese?"

Vice blinked, scratching the back of his head. "Never quite got around to learning."

The girl clutched her broom in front of herself, almost protectively, and bowed again. "Then... I am so sorry! I was not paying sufficient attention!"

When she straightened up again, Vice blinked. Her eyes were... very, very bright amber, he looked there pretty much on instinct... something looked a little off about them. Long straight black hair, pale skin that seemed almost lit up by her blush. Rather pretty - he'd eyeball her at about Teana's age, maybe a little younger. And she had a white bandage wrapped around her neck, for some reason.

He shook his head. "Don't worry about it. I've been whacked by things much less soft than that before." Like Lutecia Alpine putting him in a cast... Vita's hammer on rare occassions when he'd irritated her... Signum when he needed some sense whacked into him... had he ever been smacked around by a man, or was it always women?

"Still... um... please allow me to get a cloth so you can wash your face." She bowed again, and strode away.

Vice paused as she left. "So... how messed up do I look?"

Teana suppressed a smile. "Very. She must have hit you pretty hard, the broom nearly exploded." She stood up on tiptoe, pulling a long piece of straw off his eyebrows, before flushing a bit and slipping back down.

Vice spat a bit more to get the taste out of his mouth. It still wasn't gone. "Yup. Yup, she did. Good thing it was just a broom, even a blunt edge would've broken bone if she hit like that, since I didn't have any defences up."

"That would have been interesting to try to explain to Nanoha."

Vice laughed. "I can see it now. 'Smacked in face by distracted domestic'. She'd so add that to my medical records, wouldn't she?"

"Well... she might have been kinder. Unless she thought you needed to learn a lesson."

Vice cocked his head. "I... have no idea what kind of lesson I should take from this. React faster?"

"Don't distract people who're thinking about combat?" Teana shrugged. "I think she was, at least... either that or she's trained to the point where her first reaction on being surprised is to smack things."

Vice rubbed his face, more bristles of straw coming off with his hand. "She's trained?"

Teana shrugged. "I'm not that good at melee, and there was only the one strike, but it seemed too straight and precise to be amateur."

Vice nodded. "Makes sense."

"Um... yes, I am a martial artist," her voice - a little low-pitched, the best word he could think of was 'full' - came from the side. Vice turned to see... he hadn't actually heard her walk up, but there she was, holding a damp white cloth out in both hands.

Vice grinned, taking the cloth and starting to wipe his face. "Thanks for that, lady." He peered down at the cloth after the first wipe... the broom really had exploded, hadn't it?

She shook her head. Still red-faced. "No... it was my error in the first place. I was performing... visualization training, and did it in real life by mistake... I am sorry."

Vice was about to say 'don't worry about it, I've been hit with worse' before realizing he'd already said it. Hadn't worked the first time, probably wouldn't the second, so... subject change. "What is this place, anyway? We were looking around, and I was kind of curious."

The girl blinked, folding her hands in front of her. "This is Sentoshi Mori. It is a shrine dedicated to the goddess Izanami."

Teana snapped her fingers. "Religious. Can't believe I didn't consider that..."

Well, it didn't look much like the religious structures on Midchilda, so it was kind of understandable. Vice wiped off his chin, and, finished, handed the cloth back to the girl. "So... what does Izanami do? Are you the priestess here?"

After taking the cloth back, the girl shook her head. "No, no, I am just a new miko... um, that is a shrine assistant, sort of like a nun... I am sorry, the priestess and more experienced miko are absent at the moment."

Teana shook her head. "It's not a problem. We're just looking around, we weren't looking for services or anything."

She nodded. "All right... um, Izanami is supposedly the first woman, and she and Izanagi created the first land from the sea, in myth... I suppose that is why she was chosen as the goddess for the Millenium City's shrine."

Vice grinned. "Thanks, lady... sounds kind of fun."

"Um... my name is Shirahime Kanata," she spoke up. Didn't like being called 'lady'? "That is... Shirahime is my family name, my given name is Kanata."

"Nice to meet you, Kanata. I'm Vice Granscenic."

"Teana Lanster."

She bowed to each in turn. "Good morning, Granscenic-san, Lanster-san. Um... if you are touring, would you like me to show you around?"

Teana looked at Vice. "Seems kind of interesting." 'And I'd like to see if I can find where all that mana is coming from.'

Vice shrugged. They may as well learn a bit about the local culture. And it was a bit of fresh air to hang around someone he could actually understand when they spoke. "I'm up for it."

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

12:01 Friday, June 16, 2017 CE
Tokyo, Japan, Earth - Non-Administrated World #97


The taller of the two women brushed off her duster, sighing. "You're sure you don't want to trade, Latoya? This one's actually reasonably fit, and the lolita look doesn't really suit you."

The shorter - seemingly a mere girl - laughed, brushing back a fringe of purple hair. "I don't mind it. It's actually kind of nice getting to skip out on the aches and pains of age." She flexed her fingers. "And it's fast. And powerful. Not to mention I need to be in here to cover that deal we made." She glanced up. "Why? You're not having any trouble, are you, Raquel?"

The taller woman shook her head. "No, no, there were some definite health issues but the initial shift seems to have taken care of them. Which is fortunate since we don't have any spares."

Latoya nodded, and stuck a bit closer to Raquel's side as they passed through a tight knot of crowd. She looked very young for a moment. "... This is a nice city. Bit crowded, but... nice." Even though they were surrounded by people, they were speaking their native language, so not one knew what they were saying.

Raquel winced, as they stopped at a traffic light. "You never get like that normally... it's bad?"

Latoya said nothing, until the light turned green, indicating they should move. "The worst." With that pronouncement, she started across the street.

Raquel closed her eyes for a moment, and then hurried after her - with her longer stride, it wasn't too difficult to catch up. "What do you sense?"

Latoya hissed through her teeth. "City's infested. Maybe the whole island... maybe the whole planet."

Raquel paled. "This isn't going to turn into another San Salvacion, is it...?"

"I hope not. We're going to have to sterilize this city and hope that slows the infestation down enough."

Raquel looked down. "Sterilization already? We can't try hunting in person?"

Latoya waved the idea off. "Impossible. If it were just the enfeksiyon, I might consider it - though even then, with just us two it might be too much a risk. If one of us or both of us got hurt or infested... that'd be the end. But I picked up at least three of them. That's... not even within the realm of possibility. I'm sorry."

"Th... three? This soon?"

Latoya nodded. "The Gatekeeper's around, though he's asleep right now. The Dancer, and the third one was... unfamiliar."

Raquel gritted her teeth. "How long is The Gatekeeper going to stay asleep?"

Latoya paused, then shook her head. "I can't say. Especially not with The Dancer mucking things up. We need to level this entire area before The Gatekeeper starts defending itself, or we are done for before we even start. And then we have to find those missing keys. We need the Silver Light!"

Raquel sighed. "Got it... I'll call in Sraionte."

Latoya held up a finger, shaking her head. "The whole fleet. We have to cut off this infestation now while the collateral damage is minor, or we'll end up needing to sterilize the whole island. At best. I don't want to leave this to chance, and if they put up any real resistance we'll need the firepower to punch through."

Raquel nodded. "What should we do while we wait, ma'am...?"

"Get Asero to start recording. Take in everything you can... we'll witness this city's last hours."

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

Next: Chapter Four.

It got worse. Everyone is thinking this, and only a handful know why.
And sixteen ghosts from the past float calmly towards Earth. It is now the end of one thousand years.

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

Author's Notes:
As usual, this would not be possible, or near as good, without the prereader squad: Sunshine Temple, Akuma-sama, DCG, and Belgarion213.
To the reviewers, first, a thanks for reading and reviewing. And GeshronTyler is pretty much spot-on about Earth's position. We're pretty much on the border from three of the biggest powers in the dimensional sea, and our technology is rather... behind, comparatively. (This is, actually, because those other cultures had significant contact with Alhazred - without that, their technology wouldn't have advanced quite that fast) It leaves us in the position of having to either be neutral, or side with whoever puts enough force in orbit to protect (or annihilate) us, as the situation changes.
Regarding Earth's awareness, I've taken the stance that Earth's governments have been in the know since contact was initially made - it's not really possible to hide a large spacecraft floating in orbit from radar and telescopes (since invisibility/illusion magic is rather difficult in Nanoha's universe), and the TSA has done some rather interesting things with public records that suggest they have a fairly stable connection with the government (ie, managing to stick Fate into a school, which requires a fake identity of at least reasonable security...). That said... the governments are, at this point, keeping it from the public while they all try to catch up.
And I appear to be wrong about the squirrel/Belka thing... odd, I wonder where I got that idea.
Signum may take a while before coming here, since Hayate and her knights are busy at central, researching the prophecy... but she will come sooner or later. And she'll have some rather interesting meetings, indeed.
To AluciusDawn, thanks again. You're Canadian too, eh? And yes, you are absolutely correct - there is a very large mess coming, and it is getting larger, fast. Which may have been indicated by this chapter.
To Alexei... you're right, another Russian reader on a forum mentioned that to me as well, and most of them have been adjusted in the new drafts. You're right about the Spanish, too - outright babelfished. I don't speak either Spanish or Russian, or have any prereaders who speak 'em, so that's pretty much the best I can do until reviewers help.
Note on languages in-fic... I'm presuming that during the series, 'automatic translation for viewers' was in effect - most of the time, everyone was actually speaking Midchildan (/English, given how the Devices talk), or in the earlier seasons, sometimes Japanese for the sake of Nanoha and Hayate (since Lindy has a Japanese-style garden in her ship, she appears to be a bit interested). Teana, for her part, learned Japanese through Subaru and her father. Similarly, the honorifics have mostly been trimmed (ascribed to 'viewer translation effect') from everyone who's not actually Japanese - other than Fate who, since she spent so much time in Japan, vacillates a bit between using them and not using them.
And yes, there actually is a Saint Lucifer Calaritanus in Christianity (though his sainthood is a bit controversial).

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Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:27 pm
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