…. What did I just read?
About Six Months Ago
“Yo, yo, gimme some up top. C’mon, Dev-the-man, right up here. You know you want to. Slap it hard.”
Deveron Adams eyed his enthusiastic teammate ruefully. Norbit Drish looked about as close to a scrawny geek as you could get after a year at Crossroads Academy, and his name just fed into that. Which might explain why he displayed a personality that utterly clashed with both. Either way, Deveron liked him. Norbit (though he preferred to be called either Nizzle or his last name, and Deveron would chop off his own hand before he used the former) was loyal, funny, and an excellent fighter. He was a great guy to have in your corner. Even if he was weird. Really, unbelievably weird.
“Hey, Drish,” Deveron gave him the expected high five while shaking his head in amusement. “You got plans for the summer, man?”…
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My Fanfics :
Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated:
A Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic
Summary: Cissnei wanted to save Zack that night, only to find that it was too late. Though she couldn’t bring him back to life, she could keep his legacy alive. That was why she refused to abandon Cloud on his journey, despite going against her former friends and colleagues.
A Naruto Fanfic
Summary: A/U: Leaves spiral in the soft eddy as Naruto meets Karin in the Forest of Death. From that moment on, the two bearing the Clan name carried with them the fate of the Uzumaki and would be forever entwined.
A Pokemon Fanfic
Summary: Time travel, based on the Anime. So, the world ended. That’s bad news. Who best to get to fix it? Well, there is this guy with a track record in world saving… Not entirely serious. T rating may be overdoing it.
A Nanoha Fanfic
Summary: There’s no such thing as happily ever after. Life goes on – even dearly bought. All Precia’s plans may come to nought as shadowy actors take to the stage. But nothing unmasks a man like his use of power. Second of the Gamesverse series.
A Naruto Fanfic
Summary: After rescuing Kakashi, Team Seven thought things would be looking up. But life’s never quite that simple, and lines in the sand don’t hold for long when a squall comes along. The world rushing over the precipice of sanity, vigorously at that, doesn’t make it any easier. [Sequel to Blood Wings].
A FSN Fanfic
Summary: Emiya Kiritsugu was happy living the rest of his short days. He had put his past behind him… until he began to dream of futures that had yet to be. Let it be known that the Magus Killer was not dangerous simply because he was dying and had no plans to fight.
A FSN / Harry Potter Fanfic
Summary: A retelling of Harry Potter books with the titular character, alongside two other ones readers didn’t really care about, being replaced by three characters (Shirou EMIYA Archer, now known as Shirou von Einzbern; Takara Aozaki Daughter of Shiki and Ciel Aozaki from Tsukihime, with her name unchanged; Jester, with his name becoming Galen Salvatore) from one of his earlier works. With Neville Longbottom being the one of whom the prophecy speaks after an infant Harry Potter’s death at the hands of Lord Voldemort, they are trying to fix what is left of the world they knew from books and movies, to have a place to live.
A FSN / Sekirei Fanfic
Summary: It has been five years since the horrors of the Fifth Holy Grail War, and Shirou Kotomine, Executor of the Church, is being sent to Shin Tokyo to oversee the area. When a series of happenstances cause him to find his birth family and a secret battle royale between alien babes, he decides to do what he does best. Let’s just hope there’s a city after he’s done. An In Flight spin off.
A FSN / Persona Fanfic
Summary: A chance decision leads to an unlikely discovery. The mention of a rumor leads to an unbelievable mystery. And the connection to a long forgotten family leads to an unforgettable experience. Welcome to Inaba, Yu Narukami… or should I say Shirou Emiya? (Co-Authored by Nameless Flame Wielder)
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: In the wake of the Locker Incident, Taylor goes comatose. Wracked with guilt, Emma and Madison trigger. Things spiral from there as they quickly go different routes, both seeking redemption in a different way.
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: A continuation fic focusing on Taylor Hebert’s life following the climactic conclusion of Golden Morning and a lengthy recovery period. Taylor has her feet under her now, and grimly prepares to face a world she had thought beyond her, that of a normal young woman.
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: In a world where Eden managed to land safely, Emma Barnes seeks strength to put Taylor in her place as she triggers with Oni Lee’s power. Enter Wyrm.
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: Taylor ends up being rescued after facing Lung by Purity and ends up being mistaken as an Empire Cape. Things spiral from there.
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: Sequel to Wake and Cenotaph with Taylor as an independent Rogue/Vigilante.
A Worm/ Bloodborne Fanfiction
Summary: Taylor becomes a Hunter and stalks the streets of Brockton Bay every full moon. Gangsters beware, and let all Fear the Old Blood.
A Worm / Pokemon Fanfiction
Summary: Taylor Hebert gets sent to the pokemon world by Bakuda’s bombs with her powers intact. Yes, she does connect with bug-types. You may run now.
A Worm x Ben 10 Fanfiction
Summary: Ben Tennyson finds himself in another world. Another world, where he isn’t the only one out there saving lives and fighting villains. But whatever world he is in, it can always be Hero Time.
A Young Justice Fanfic
Summary: An SI with an Orange Ring ends up in the Young Justice Universe and seeks to advance humanity through advance technology and magic.
A Digimon Fanfic
Summary: Five years after 8 kids saved the Digital World, the gateway opens again… but it is a far darker story than we have been led to believe.
A Digimon Fanfic
Summary: The War is over, or so it is thought. For the Digidestined, life goes on, but with digimon emerging once more into the real world, the world will change once more. Divided they fall, but a new generation of heroes, the Tamers, will rise to unite against the new threat.
Written by Bananaowns
Images courtesy of Project I.G, Studio Trigger, and Studio Bones
Last week I covered three recommendations for the spring season. So now it’s time for the second part where I cover the last three shows that I am currently watching. If you missed last week’s piece, then be sure to check that one out as well. I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime feature.
I love media about espionage and the lives of spies. This series focuses on the adventures of a variety of spies as they work for the Japanese government in the years just before their involvement in World War II. This anime is also misleading. At first it appears that the series will focus on Sakuma’s acceptance of espionage, but that quickly changes. The series turns into an anthology as it focuses on a different spy every week as they…
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I descend into Hell as I dream. My sins crawl up my body in the form of tenebrous hands, reaching up from the ichorous slurry to drag me into the abyss. No matter how much I struggle, I can’t break free.
(No, stop! I’ve changed!)
They pull and the world becomes black. The punishment begins. The stygian mud drowns me in the evils of Man for the indulgence of rape—gifting the accumulation of sins with the violation of the mind, body, and heart.
(I won’t do it again! I swear!)
The body is kept intact to bleed endlessly, oozing out acrid curses to consume the world in ink and paint the canvas of Earth into a portrait of Hell. Sitting atop a throne of bulbous flesh, I become the king of a world of sludge beneath a blood-red sky—a kingship that has no worth in a world without humans.
I find myself committing the most heinous acts of depravity born of Man, my body reenacting the worst sins of humanity as the victimizer, imbibing the twisted pleasure they feel. Then I take the place of the victim, and learn what it means to be defiled and tormented. Like that, the mind is bombarded by the whim of an angry god that pays evil unto evil, but is never allowed to break and gain the reprieve of insanity.
(Stop, stop, stop—!)
I suffer from a pain that transcends flesh and bone for the sin of being human. The filthy soul is exposed to All the World’s Evils, but not blackened by it. That ensures the horror can never be accepted with oneself, thus the suffering remains endless.
It hurts. It hurts! IT HURTS! HELP ME! SAVE ME! KILL ME!
(Just let me die! Please… just let me die…)
No. The suffering must continue. The path to salvation is nowhere to be found in the pitch.
Atonement starts in the pits of Hell, an endless suffering that eclipses death as the penalty for violation in the name of respect.
“Bear witness to the crimes of humankind, and never know the ignorance of their sins again.”
That is the decree of the one who oversees the cursed world, Angr—
I wake up screaming as the rays of the morning sun burn away the vivid nightmare. Then cascading purple hair blocks the light. It frames Sakura’s face as she hovers over me.
“Nii-san! Can you hear me!?”
Her eyes are wide with worry. Her hands are clutching my sweat-soaked shoulders, fingers tensed. Had she been shaking me awake?
I stop screaming and start gasping for air, blinking away the tears that sting at my eyes.
She speaks softly as her eyes continue to peer into mine. “Are you okay?”
“I’m…” Please… just let me die…“I’m fine… just a nightmare.”
Her hands drift back to her lap as I sit up and rub my throat. It feels raw on the inside. I must’ve been yelling for awhile—longer than usual.
“But I couldn’t wake you up for over five minutes this time.” Her right fingers find their way onto my head, feeling the cold sweat on the hot surface. “Your nightmares are getting worse.”
I move her hand away. “I just need stronger sleeping pills then.”
Her eyes turn to the nightstand by the bed, where she sees the bottle. She reaches for it and inspects the label and contents. Her frown of concern deepens. “You’ve already gone through this many in two weeks?”
Of course I have. I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep ever since that damn Gilgamesh shoved that albino brat’s heart into me, claiming it would give me the Holy Grail. I can’t remember that time clearly, but when I dream it returns. The sleeping pills help, but the moment I enter the fringes of the waking world, the crimes of humanity stand at the gate to pull me back.
“I’ll just get more later.” I shove aside the covers as Sakura sits up from the edge of my bed. “Anyway, what time is it?”
“Around 6 in the morning, Nii-san.”
I groan softly as I take her place on the edge. My T-Shirt is clinging to my body and my pants feel heavy as well. I feel filthy in general, but I’ve become accustomed to that. Still, my sheets are soaked and will need to be washed. The last thing I need is to come home and find out the stench has seeped into the mattress.
Sakura is dressed like she’s ready to leave the house. No sense in asking her to take care of it then. “I’m taking a shower. If you’re going to that idiot Emiya’s place for breakfast then get going.”
“Are you sure you’re alright?”
“I said go. Don’t make me repeat myself.”
She nods her head. “Then I will see you at school, Nii-san.”
I wait until she leaves and shuts the door before I muster the effort to get onto my feet. I have to get to the Archery Club soon and open the range for the other early-risers. Ayako used to handle that, but over the last few months she’s been late coming in. And then she sleeps in the club office most of that time anyway.
I don’t know what kind of game she’s running, but what was the point in visiting me in the hospital six months ago if she was just going to start slacking off instead? She asked me to help with getting the club back into shape, so things would be smoother for when Sakura took over as the Captain. At the time, I didn’t think that meant I would do everything.
I shower and clean myself up, putting the sheets in the wash afterwards. Then I slip into my uniform, grab a can of coffee from the refrigerator, and head out the door.
The streets are quiet as always as I walk them alone to the school. There aren’t really all that many people up at this time. Yet, somehow, the Student President ends up walking up to the gate at the same time I do.
“Early again, Matou?” he asks, while looking as bland as ever.
I shrug. “Well, someone has to open up the club. Since Fujimura-Sensei isn’t in yet and Ayako has been slacking off, it falls onto my shoulders. Honestly, the women of this school leave a lot to be desired when it comes to getting things done.”
He makes a slightly unpleasant face before schooling his features. Then pushes up his glasses by the bridge and says, “I suppose you are entitled to your opinions.”
“…What was that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing you need to concern yourself with.”
I watch as he walks off. It feels as though I’ve just been slighted, but I don’t have the energy to say anything back or deal with him. Not before the canned coffee kicks in.
I fight down the displeasure in my chest and just get things at the archery range ready for the morning.
By the time homeroom is about to start, there’s still no sign of Ayako. She didn’t even show up at the range this morning, despite her brother saying she went out ahead of him. Is she running off and leaving all the work to me on purpose?
As if that wasn’t annoying enough, the door into Class 3-A is blocked by two people I don’t want to see at the moment—Emiya and Tohsaka. They had gotten more cordial over the last few months, so them having a deep conversation wasn’t a surprise. But I’ve been trying to keep my distance since the end of the war, something that is incredibly hard when they are blocking my way.
Emiya is the first to notice me. “Good morning, Shinji.”
“I don’t see anything good about it.” I ignore Emiya for a moment and turn to the other one. “The bell is about to ring. If you want your standing in the school to remain on point, you should hurry up and get to your homeroom.”
She brushes her hair over her shoulder in a conceited manner. “I’m merely conversing with a fellow classmate. There’s no crime in that is there, Matou-kun?”
“It is when you’re blocking the way. Hurry up and move.”
“I’m about done anyway.” A small, smug smile comes onto her face. “Speaking of standings, you should work on pulling up your grades. I’ve heard if they slip any lower you’ll be forced out of the Archery Club.”
I grit my teeth as the smug bitch walks off. I don’t know what I ever saw in her. Or, judging by the look that Emiya has, what he sees in her.
He turns to me. “Shinji, are you actually okay? Sakura has told me that you’ve been having trouble sleeping lately.”
Why did Sakura even feel the need to run her mouth about my issues to this idiot? I doubt it’s something he can help me with, even if he was the type of idiot who would try. I need to have a word with her about that later on. “I just built up a tolerance to the sleeping pills I’ve been taking. That’s all.”
Emiya’s expression shifts to a more serious look. “Shinji, whatever you still have against Tohsaka, if it might an after-effect of what happened that day then—”
Stop, it hurts! It hurts! It’s growing! IT’S GROWING! HELP! HELP ME!
I push past him as the memories threaten to surface because of his words. I don’t want to remember that time. I don’t want to remember that pain of having countless worms violating me from the inside out as the grail turned me into a swollen mass of flesh.
That gorilla, Gai Gotou, laughs about something loudly in the seat in front of mine as I sit down. I actually listen to his jabbering for the rest of homeroom in an effort to repress the memories of that night. I glare at Emiya the entire time from the corner of my eyes.
Damn him for reminding me.
I walk towards the range to find Sakura after class ends. We need to have a talk about her bringing up things that don’t concern her to others. Of all people, she should understand the desire to keep things hidden away.
“I’m sure I saw Mitsuzuri-san with one today—”
Ayako’s name being mentioned grabs my attention as I near the entrance to the range. The voice came from the side of the building, so I look over it to see three girls from the track team. The one speaking is Kane Himuro, the daughter of the mayor of the city, if I remembered right.
“—the red card with rumors floating around about people suddenly dropping dead after they use it. I saw her from the window looking down at it.”
Now that she mentioned it, there have been several cases of people suffering from Sudden Death Syndrome over the last few months. There was no official explanation, but, according to her, there’s some urban legend going around that receiving a red card marks you for death. It sounds ridiculous, but Himuro is a bit of a rumormonger—despite acting otherwise a lot of the time.
“I don’t think that’s really true,” says the mousiest of the bunch, Yukika Saegusa. “If that was really the case, there would be a public announcement given how there’s been an increase all over the world.”
Kaede Makidera, the loudest of the trio, rounds out her argument with logic. “Yeah, I don’t think she’d get involved with something like that either way. You might be taking these rumors too seriously.”
They both have a point. But there is a case where the public wouldn’t be informed—if it has something to do with magecraft or that side of the world. Even so, while that might work on a small scale, like with Caster and Rider, I don’t think that it can operate on a global scale for this long. Not when it attracts this much attention.
Not to mention Tohsaka would be all over it given she and Ayako often talk to one another. If she really is incompetent enough to let that slide under the radar, it’d be an embarrassment. Not that I wouldn’t love to rub that in her smug face, but it’d be just as embarrassing for me if I point her in one direction and it turns out to be nothing.
I deal with her enough as is every time I see that smug look on her face after that day.
The trio leaves toward the track field after that. There’s nothing new I can learn from just standing there, so I go inside.
The constant sound of arrows pelting targets blend into the background as I enter the range for the second time that day. It’s a lot livelier than this morning. That normally meant more work for me, but Sakura acts as my proxy for the time being to gain more experience. That way, when Ayako finally passes over the title of ‘Captain’, the transition will be smoother.
She’s still too passive compared to Ayako when it comes to keeping people in line. But she’s improving with every club meeting. And, if anyone gives her trouble like they did when she joined up, I’ll step in.
Right now she’s helping Ayako’s younger brother with his aiming. The kid’s not bad. I’ve seen him on his own and he’s a decent shot, so he shouldn’t need help. Then I catch the glance he gives Sakura while she helps him lineup a shot and see that he’s more interested in her….
I make a note to deal with him at a later date as Sakura looks in my direction. I silently gesture for her to come to me.
She excuses herself to do so. “Yes, Nii-san?”
“Is Ayako in today?”
She nods and looks towards the door where the Captain’s room is. “She said that she wasn’t feeling well and wanted to be left alone. If there was an emergency then I was supposed to get either you or Fujimura-Sensei.”
If that was the case, then she probably wouldn’t be awake any time soon. I’ll use the chance to search around for that card, if it really does exist. Even if I can’t use magecraft, if there’s something magical about it then Sakura or the idiot could peg it—which reminds me of what I wanted to talk about in the first place.
“Sakura, don’t talk to Emiya anymore about what’s going on with me. It’s not something he or Tohsaka needs to be involved with, and I don’t want to repeat myself. Understand?”
Her expression shifts between wanting to say something and then returning to her submissive state. “I understand.”
“Then go back to what you were doing.” I watch as she turns away silently and goes back to the range, leaving me to my thoughts on what to do next. If Himuro was right, then Ayako has the card with her today. If that’s the case, I guess it’ll be best to start with the changing room.
I walk into the men’s section first to change for the club myself. Then I knock on the door of the women’s section to make sure no one is inside. Getting caught rummaging around in Ayako’s belongings isn’t something I feel like having to explain.
Once I was sure it was clear inside, it takes me less than a minute to go through her belongings. There’s no card to be found. I do, however, find what looks to be a makeshift survival kit. There’s some survival bars, water-bottles, a half-filled bottle of the same brand of sleeping pills I use, a pocket-notebook, two pens, and a black matchbook with the words ‘Copenhagen’ on it.
Copenhagen… Copenhagen… where have I heard that name before…
Ah, Emiya works there from time to time. It’s a bar, if I remember right. Why does she have this?
I look into the pocket-notebook to find it filled with dates and scribbles about something called ‘Taboo’ with inhuman descriptions—like something out of a fantasy story or a nightmare. Is she having nightmares and recording them? Or is it something else…
I need more information… and I know just who to ask.
I walk out of the women’s room and back to the range. Ayako’s brother is standing alone now that Sakura is elsewhere, nocking an arrow. If there’s anyone who knows about this, it’ll be him. I just need to be smart in how I approach it.
I wait until he fires his shot before I call him. “Mitsuzuri. I need to have a word with you about your sister. ”
He stares in my direction with a look of disinterest. “What about her?”
“There’s rumors flying around that she’s been hanging around at an unsavory bar these days. And when you consider her behavior lately, on top of the earlier rumors, it paints an unpleasant picture.”
His look of disinterest turns into a glare. He acts all uncaring and distant, but it looks like I struck a nerve after all. “What exactly are you implying?”
I smirk. “I’m not implying anything. Rather, I’m offering to clear up this mess if you can tell me where exactly it is that she’s going to. What you say could decide if things are better for her or worse if it reaches Fujimura. It’d be terrible if she ends up being forced to retire from the club in her last year, if not leave the school entirely.”
He hesitates for a moment, but he talks. “She’s been going to the Temple at the top of the mountain for the last few months to train in the martial art they practice. If you don’t believe me, ask that Ryuudou guy on the Student Council.”
A picture starts to form in my head when I recall what the Student President said earlier. He knew about whatever is going on with her. That’s why he said what he did. There’s something connecting him, Ayako, and the Copenhagen together. But the only solid link between them is…
That’s the main link I can think of. But I can’t imagine him having anything to do with involving ordinary people in events from the other side of the world. That idiot’s line of thinking falls in the other direction.
So that leaves the card that Himuro mentioned. “Now that you mention it, I have seen him talking to her and showing her a red card of some kind. Does she have it?”
“Why does that matter?”
“Proof,” I tell him. “If she has that card on her then, when it comes up, it’ll lend credibility to her alibi.”
“Then yeah, I’ve seen her with a calling card. She never leaves the house without it and usually keeps it on her, but she doesn’t like me looking at it.”
If she keeps it on her then it’s probably with her now in the room. I can go check while she’s asleep. “Well, if that’s the case then I’ll go tell Fujimura when I get a chance. It’d be a shame if she ended up disappointed in one of her favorite students because she got caught up in rumors like that.”
Leaving him behind, I make my way to the club room and find her asleep with her head on the desk. Her body rises and falls in a rhythm, undisturbed as I close the door as quietly as I can. Then, light as a feather, I wander over to the shelf next to the desk.
From there I eye the pocket of her hakama, spotting something red peeking over the edge of it. That must be the card Himuro was talking about. I keep my attention on the shelf as I inch closer and use two fingers to pull it out, bringing it to my face.
It’s a calling card of some kind, the words ‘Psyren’ printed on the front in some kind of cheap, English, gothic text. The red color abruptly turned black like paint being chipped off or worn away by weather to reveal what was underneath it in the top corner. Turning it over showed a phone number.
I barely finish running my eyes over the number before the world spins and I’m on the floor. My arm is behind my back, a calloused hand holds my face to the ground, and the card is away from me. I struggle to turn my head and catch the look Ayako is giving me with half-bloodshot eyes.
She looks pissed. “I can’t believe you actually went through my—”
I cut her off, my own voice louder. “I just picked up your card off the floor and this is the thanks I get?”
Her expression wavers and her hand eases up on my face, relieving the pressure. But she’s still on top of me. She didn’t buy it completely.
“What? You think I’m lying?” I struggle to get up, but it feels like I have a bunch of cement blocks on my back. “What about a stupid card is so important your first reaction after waking up is to throw me on the ground?”
She grits her teeth and her body tenses. But she doesn’t say anything. She just gets up and grabs her card, shoving it back into her pocket. “Don’t look or even think about it again.”
“If it’s so important to you then don’t leave it lying around like that.” I get back to my feet and dust myself off. There’s an ache in my arm and shoulder where she put me in a joint lock. “And why the Hell are you sleeping on the job anyway? You’re supposed to be out there helping the First Years.”
Her lips purse and she rubs the bridge between her eyes. “I’ve been tired lately. It’s nothing that you and your sister can’t handle. She’s supposed to be taking the reins in a month or so anyway. That’s what everyone agreed to with Fujimura-Sensei.”
“That’s not the point.” I let my anger at the pain in my shoulder bleed into my voice. “You told me that you wanted to get the club back into shape and begged me to help you. Remember that?”
She glares at me again. “I didn’t beg, I asked.”
“I’ve been doing more than my fair share, opening up and closing while you’ve been slacking off. And I put up with it until now. But if this is how things are going to be all the time, why don’t you just stay home instead of coming at all?”
Her head tilts down and her hair cascades over her eyes, obscuring them from sight. Her fist clenches like she wants to take a swing, tensing so tight her body trembles… then her hand goes slack and her body still.
“…Maybe I should….” Her voice carries a note of defeat in it so thick that it’s sickening to hear. There isn’t an ounce of competitive spirit left in her. “I’ll talk to Fujimura-Sensei about it tomorrow.”
I stare in silent disbelief. Ayako always put up a fight when she thought I overstepped my position before. Now she crumbles without a fight. I expect that from Sakura (something we were supposed to be trying to correct), but not her.
Had this been just a couple of months ago, I could see myself laughing at her being bought so low she’d give up everything without a fight. But after what she said when she visited me in the hospital, and the events that led to my extended stay… it just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth to see her like this. Whatever her deal is with the calling card, it managed to do what Rider didn’t that day.
I really don’t like the thought of someone succeeding where I failed.
If this has something to do with a magus then I should leave it to Tohsaka. It’s her job in the first place. But, given how long Ayako’s been like this, if Tohsaka hasn’t found anything yet then she must be either blind or ignoring it.
The card is the key. If I could get my hands on one of those calling cards, then I could take it to Emiya instead. He can play the hero, Ayako can get help, and I can rub it into Tohsaka’s face all at once.
Ayako stiffens abruptly, as though a jolt of electricity went up her spine. A flash of fear crosses her face, and then her expression hardens. She looks me in the eyes. “Shinji, I’ll say this once more: forget the card and everything about it, otherwise you’ll regret it.”
After that vague warning, she walks out without another word and briskly heads for the changing room. Not five seconds later, she runs for entrance of the range with her belongings without even changing out of her club clothes. She ignores everyone who greets her as she leaves with a serious look on her face, and the other members of the club start staring at me like I’ve done something wrong.
I shut the door and pull out my phone. I have seconds at best her brother or Sakura comes to ask me what happened. No one else has the courage or concern to do it otherwise. So I dial the number while it’s fresh in my memories—
“The number you have dialed is not accepting calls at the moment. Please try again later.”
—and get an automated message right before there’s a gentle series of knocks on the door. It’s Sakura. It’s too soft for the alternative.
I save the number into my list of Contacts, under the name ‘Psyren’. I could call or try looking up the number online later on. For now, I do damage control….
The scope of my dream this time is a black canvas, dotted with vibrant stars. Something moves through the darkness, past the stars and Sun, sailing towards me…. no, it’s not heading towards me. I’m merely in the way.
(Is this outer space?)
Standing between the approaching mass and the Earth behind me, floating in the void, is a vaguely humanoid…thing that appears to be mimicking a human. It towers over me at seven feet tall, elongated and bone thin limbs drifting down to near the hem of a white coat with red fur trimming. Its bird-shaped, head-covering helmet is crooked at an angle as it observes me in curiosity.
(What are you supposed to be?)
Its limbs bend, bringing its hands up. It extends one towards me. There, in its talon-like fingers, is a calling card with the words ‘Psyren’ printed on the front in black on red—ink on blood.
(Oh… right, I finished that long-ass questionnaire while I was out eating and it said the card would be delivered to my house the next morning, even though it didn’t ask for an address.)
I reach out and grasp the card, only for crimson chains to emerge from it. They coil around my heart and brain like barbed-wire, anchoring them into place under the threat of tearing them to shreds.
(It hurts! STOP! STOOOOPPPP!!!!)
The thing-in-white grasps my head, grasps my brain—grasps my soul. It pulls it close until it’s touching the helmet covering its own. Then I hear its desire.
“Those who risk their souls to traverse time, bear witness to the future. Hearken the summoning’s toll, know despair, and embrace power to change it. Such are the terms of the contract.”
Too inhuman to register, yet clear as a cloudless sky, the message is burned into my brain by its pointed fingers. Then the thing-in-white releases me, and I fall to the Earth below.
I wake up at the sensation of falling down, despite being firmly on top of my bed sheets.
My head aches. My heart aches. They ache like the dream, the chain and barbed wire coiling around them within my body—within my soul.
It hurts, but I force myself to sit up in the bed. Then I catch a glimpse of something red on my nightstand. My heart stills and my mind freezes.
I want to label it as a dream. The moment I look at it is the moment it stops being a dream. It becomes real—the pain, the words, the white-thing that violated my mind and heart to bind them in chains and barbed wire, and the words themselves will all become real.
But if I lie back down and close my eyes, it’ll all be a dream….
The alarm clock goes off at full volume. The sudden noise draws my eyes to the nightstand on reflex, a hand already moving to hit the snooze button. The red calling card is there, between an empty glass and near-empty bottle of sleeping pills.
It ceases to be a dream.
Gah! The plot-twists! They break my brain.
“Wait, what?” Columbus demanded, looking between Shiori and me. “That one kid? You think he’s–”
“It makes sense,” Avalon interrupted with a frown. “He’s the only human here, and the Meregan have been taking care of him. Maybe this Nicholas guy thinks they’re holding him prisoner or something.”
Sands rolled her eyes. “Well that’s just stupid. They’re fighting over a miscommunication? Have they ever considered just talking things out so they don’t run into these kind of prob—wow is that really me saying that?” She made a face of confused discomfort for a brief moment before shaking her head.
Beside her sister, Scout made a slight snickering sound before quietly putting an arm around her.
I glanced to Senny first. The vampire girl was standing near the doorway, listening intently. Noticing my attention, she shook her head to indicate that no one was coming. Not yet anyway. I…
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Vim & Vigor 6
Circus was pretty fast all things considered. I wouldn’t call her a Mover with a high-ranking, but being able to parkour up and down a series of buildings without falling because of her balance trick should have earned her some kind of lower-ranking in the category. It took everything I had to keep up, and I nearly got hit while invisible by a car.
I probably would have survived as long as my brain was intact, but I really didn’t want to find out like that.
As I chased her, I had to wonder what she was doing so far north. We were nearing Merchant territory by the Docks, far outside Circus’ normal operating area. Maybe she was getting tired of Heimal and Nemean hounding her, or did she piss off the Cyborg of Brockton Bay?
She only finally stopped running when she approached a set of buildings that looked like they were abandoned, behind a high-rise of some kind. I could tell from the broken windows that lined the red and white one that rose up to maybe four stories high. But Circus entered the second building, the grey one that was only three stories high and had boarded up windows on the first and second floor, while they didn’t bother on the third floor.
She looked around to see if she had been followed, but didn’t spot me since the invisibility field was wrapped around me. Then she entered the double doors.
“Don’t try to go in that way,” Taylor said over the line. “It’s too obvious.”
“I thought as much myself.” I looked up to see that one of the windows on the third floor had been so thoroughly broken that it could be climbed through. Something likely blew it out judging from the glass scattered on the ground. That’d work.
I went over to the side of the building and dropped the invisibility field in the shadows, switching to X-Ray to check my surroundings. It looked like there was no one in the red building next to me, which you’d think a few homeless people or addicts would be inside given the size, but the grey one that Circus went in had someone else in it on the first floor—Trainwreck from the size and shape.
What was a member of the Merchants doing meeting with Circus? I didn’t see her joining up with them. If she did then that’d add… I think about six Capes to their numbers: Skidmark, Squealer, Mush, Stain, and Trainwreck, who joined up not too long ago. But why join the Merchants of all gangs?
She was a rather successful Independent Villain all things considered… well, at least until the Beauty and Beast came to the Bay. If she needed to join a gang then I guessed that ruled out the E-88, unless she was pure Caucasian. The ABB was out too unless she was some kind of Asian and wanted to work under Lung.
Really, even if you discounted that the Merchants were usually drug-addicts, they were at least somewhat multiracial and maybe—
“You’re rambling again.”
“You really need to work on that.”
“Yeah…” I sighed as I took in the terrain a second time before looking down at the bangle. I was down to about half from using Invisibility chasing her. Better not waste time.
I grabbed hold of Telekinesis and used it to pull the nearest manhole cover towards me. Stepping onto it, I raised myself up in the air slowly despite the extra weight deepening the color and energy expenditure by a notch. I don’t have the best balance, but my powers keep it stable as long as I concentrate on it. Guess I qualified for conditional Mover myself now.
With it, I rose up to the broken window and stepped inside. There was no third or second floor in the inside, but rather it had a high ceiling and metal walkways around it like it had been some sort of gutted factory. Neither of them was looking, but Trainwreck looked awfully blue from my point of view. Good to know.
I swapped powers right afterwards as I grabbed the manhole cover, letting the invisibility field cloak my body and it. That way I could watch without them taking notice as they continued to talk, but I had to strain my ears to listen while they were.
“—passed up the Underrunners because I work alone, so why would I work for someone else?”
“Because it’s an opportunity to make some real cash,” Trainwreck said. “Or favors. He could even get rid of the Beauty and Beast for you. Everyone knows they’ve been chasing you down. How long you think that Tinkertech to mask your scent will work?”
“How the fuck do you know about that?”
“My employer has many connections. He can also make the issue disappear, one way or another.”
Okay, now I know he isn’t talking about Skidmark. Heimal had ice powers and Nemean turned into either a werelion or giant lion made of what looked to be solid stone of some kind. Hell, I’ve seen the video of him once pile-driving Hookwolf in his full-on metal form.
I gave it a Like.
The Merchants couldn’t bring that sort of power to the front no matter what they tried to do. So, who were they working for? This could be big. I needed to get closer.
I moved to do so—
—and my foot crushed a beer can. It was as loud as a gunshot for all intents and purposes, and both of them turned their heads my way. Damn.
Circus reached for a pair of throwing knives and held two between her fingers. “What was that?”
“Probably rats,” he said. “I came alone.”
Yes, a large resourceful rat. Not an invisible Cape who is getting out of there ASAP, I couldn’t help but pray silently as I gripped the manhole cover tighter and turned towards the window. I heard enough and decided to get out while the getting was good—
“Gah!” The scream came out on its own as one of the two thrown knives poked me in my back. The chainmail stopped it from going any deeper, but it still caught me by surprise.
“Stranger!” yelled Trainwreck as he pointed towards me with his arm. There was an opening on his unnecessarily big gauntlet, and he braced it with the other hand. Having been shot at enough by Squealer, I saw where this was going.
I dropped Invisibility for Repulsion Shield. It caught what looked to be a makeshift cannon ball before it took my head off. Seriously, a steam-powered wrist-cannon? I didn’t know if that was awesome or impractical, but I did know that I didn’t want to get hit by it.
I sighed, switched back to Telekinesis while the field still had a few seconds active to protect me, and turned to the window—
“Look out!” Taylor said abruptly over the line. I only saw why when it was too late.
Circus pulled some parkour… bullshit and managed to get high enough kick off one of the support beams, and fling two more knives that got caught in my field before she grabbed the edge of the railing and swung up to kick me.
I brought the manhole cover around to protect me, but it just gave her a larger surface to hit and pushed me right out of the window. I turned as I fell with the manhole cover beneath my stomach, screaming, and desperately visualized my power acting like a giant hand lifting me up. What happened was that the manhole cover acted as though the hand was lifting it and stopped my fall about three feet from the ground.
My heart took a second to start working again.
Then Trainwreck busted through the wall close to me, having decided the door wasn’t fast enough.
As the pair of blue-shrouded powered fist came towards me, in an effort to either grab or crush me, I dropped my control on the manhole cover in exchange for taking control of his armor and pushing him back into the hole he burst through with all my telekinetic might. The effort sent him flying back with a surprised noise while I hit the ground. It briefly knocked the air out of lungs, but it’s not that bad compared to how it could have been.
I got lucky that I was using Telekinesis already. If he was a straight brute then I would have had my head crushed before I could switch out to something better suited for fighting him. And it was pure luck that I managed to hear the sound of metal scraping stone to notice that Circus had also decided to jump down with a sledgehammer she pulled out of nowhere.
I visualized a hand grabbing it and my power grasped it, stopping it and her in the middle of the air. Then the sledgehammer vanished and she fell again towards me while swinging her hands back and then throwing them forward—wait, when did the sledgehammer get back in her hands!?
I stumbled back just in time to avoid it crushing my head from her throwing it down like that. It’s more than enough time for her to land into a front roll next to the sledgehammer that vanished, spring back to her feet with her arms chambered, and swings them forward with the sledgehammer once again in her hands. I tried to get out of range again, but it caught me in chest.
“Ooph!” I went down and ended up on my back. That stung. It felt like something cracked in my chest, but I’d heal. Still stupid of me. The moment that Trainwreck got the drop on me, I should have moved to regain my advantage.
She wasted no time in mounting my chest with her knees planted firmly on my shoulders to stop me from moving my arms. Her forearm then came down on my throat to cut off my air as she leaned down to peer into my mask’s lens. “Who’re you supposed to be?”
I only managed strangled groans until she moved her arm back a smidge. “Haah…name’s Vim, ahhh….” I gasped hot air as my chest stopped hurting and I heard lumbering footsteps. Crap. “Can you please stop trying to kill me?”
“How much did you hear?” she asked as the shadow of Trainwreck loomed over me. “Who do you work for?”
“You were speaking too low for me to hear anything,” I lied as I turned my palm upwards and grabbed hold of my Repulsion Shield’s echo. I’m not stupid. I knew the moment that they got what they wanted they’d cripple or kill me. “And I don’t work for anyone, I’m new. I just saw you and one thing led to another.”
“Then this is your unlucky night,” Trainwreck said, before he addressed her. “Boss doesn’t appreciate witnesses, if you’re in?”
A knife appeared in her hand after a very brief pause, so I guess she really wanted those two Capes done in. Right then.
I fired off the Repulsion Shield and the knife stopped in midair. Even if I don’t aim it, it covered me in a field that extended out from my body several inches. So she settled for strangling me again as I grabbed hold of Zero-G’s echo and fired it off to send her floating up.
Trainwreck, who should have been caught in the wide (if short) range of the blast, then tried to stomp my head. The same reason it probably didn’t affect him and the cause of my near-death, the steam-powered armor, stopped like the knife. The field lingered for five seconds after use whether or not I’m using that echo inside of me and I had three left.
I rolled out from under the floating Circus and grabbed hold of Shocker to let them both have a taste. Blue tendrils of electricity covered them both, worming into their bodies in a single blast. She screamed while he only grunted and took aim with his gauntlet for another shot.
I took the chance to grab Telekinesis again and visualized a pair of hands grabbing Trainwreck’s arms. The metal had to weigh more than his limbs, so I was sure he couldn’t stop them with simple muscle as I forced them downwards to his right knee. The impact made his entire leg shake and whatever firing mechanism he had triggered, either from the force or because he was getting ready to take the shot, blowing it off entirely in a spray of metal and whatever fluid was in it—but no blood.
A part of me was relieved I didn’t just cost a man his leg, even if he tried to murder me. The other part of me recalled that my bullet-proof field was down now. He could kill me if he got another shot off.
I could try and pull his arms off with Telekinesis, but I didn’t know if his arms were all metal as well. So I settled for throwing him back through the hole he made and then jerking to the side with both hands as a visualization aid to throw him into a side wall too. No clear line of fire, and he couldn’t chase me with a single leg.
“Goddamn Grab-bags,” I heard him say as I released my grasp on him and looked down to my bangle. Then I bit back a swear. I had a lot less than what I came here with.
How badly did she hurt me that healing required that much energy? Or was it from manhandling Trainwreck? All that metal must’ve factored into the total energy cost. Damn it, I hoped Taylor didn’t need that information.
“Don’t just stand there, run!” Taylor yelled over the line. “Zero-G has a time limit, remember?”
I turned and ran, taking a parting shot to the still-floating Circus. “I see you two want to be alone, so I’ll let you get back to your clandestine tryst. Personally, I think you’d make a fitting couple!”
I knew they weren’t talking about dating. But as long as they thought I didn’t know what they were talking about, it was for the better. That stopped a third party from getting involved and limited the number of people I had to worry about in the future to just Trainwreck, who was part of the Merchants and already hated me, and Circus—AHHHH, IT BURNS!
FIRE! I’M ON FIRE! I’M ON FIRE!
I fell forward and started rolling to stop the burning. Everything hurt and time didn’t seem to matter until the flames died. It was long enough before I stopped burning and turned to see that a portable gas-torch was lying on the ground away from her as she was struggling to get back on her feet.
Damn, I forgot that she had pyrokinesis to go with the parkour and hammerspace. Goddamn Grab-bag powers. I wanted to blast her again with another bolt to put her down, but I had to heal and I didn’t know how much energy that would take for all the damage I’ve taken.
I forced my body to move towards the nearest alley. The only thought in my head was that I had to run away and heal. So I did that and ran.
I didn’t think at all and only ran. I needed to get somewhere far enough to heal before I could think and plan on how to get away. My body understood that and moved as flesh began to heal and pushed out the heated metal of the chainmail that added to the workload.
Then I hit something ahead of me as I turned the corner. The sounds of glass breaking and a curse reached my ears before I hit the wall. My full awareness returned and I found myself looking down at the girl from the Market that returned my wallet, her glass bottle in a brown bag shattered and spilling its contents.
Before I could say anything, I saw her eyes glow from something bright behind me. My body acted, wanting to move to avoid the pain it just experienced. But she would have been caught by it if I ran, so I stop myself from pushing past her and grabbed the trash can next me to throw it that way.
It crashed into the flaming lion or tiger or bear, or whatever animal that Circus chose to shape it in, and went up in flames as the girl screamed. That was close. I couldn’t let someone else get killed because of me. “Run and call the police, a murder-villain is coming!”
She ran the opposite the way the flame came from. I didn’t know if she’d actually get help, but I was hoping that Circus would settle for trying to escape instead of going after her. Of course, I was probably screwed since she could very well murder me in that timeframe. Not going down without a fight though.
I called up my Shocker echo and crystals started growing out of my hand. Then I heard the girl scream and turned her way. Circus had the flat of the knife pressed against the girl’s neck and there was a bleeding gash across her cheek.
Stupid of me, I should have guessed that Circus could have controlled the fire while she darted around to cut off my escape. “Let her go!”
“You run or attack, she dies,” Circus warned me with the flat of the blade against the girl’s throat. Her outfit was probably somewhat insulated, which was why she could chase after me. “No one would think twice about some alcoholic homeless bitch with her throat slit in this part of town. Now get on your knees and place your hand face-down on the ground how it is.”
“She’ll kill her anyway,” Taylor warned me. “She’s listed as a burglar with no known kills on her record, but that’s only what’s been reported.”
And she’d tried to kill me already. But I couldn’t risk it. “She’s done nothing to you!”
“On. The. Ground.” Circus ordered, turning the blade proper so the sharp end was on her neck. “I won’t say it again.”
“Taylor, go home.” I whispered as I fell onto my knees and laid both of my hands down on the ground. “Tell my parents you don’t know what happened to me after we split up an hour ago if they call. It’s not foolproof, but if they find my body then they won’t blame you—you couldn’t have known and they’d likely just think I’d triggered after the other cover story.”
Circus threw the knife and listened to me cry out as it buried itself into my non-powered hand. “Like I thought, one power at a time and each with a time-limit,” she said, now grasping another knife she pulled out of nowhere. It must’ve been a test shot to see if the same thing that happened before would happen again. “You can’t block my knife while you’ve got your electric powers set.”
Time slowed as she chambered her hand to throw the knife and Taylor yelled my name over the line. The girl used the chance to raise one arm to cover her head as she pulled herself off to the side, probably to avoid getting killed when I was dead to leave no witnesses. I raised my hand to fire a final bolt with the opening she gave me and hit Circus square in the chest. That should buy her time to get away as the knife slammed into my mask.
I felt it fall off my face as a hot flash of pain drew a line over my forehead. It was luck again. The girl breaking free must’ve messed with the force behind the throw and caused the knife to be off by half-a-rotation. I pulled out the knife in my hand and got onto my feet as the girl ran past me…
Then I stumbled forward and onto my knees. The mask broke beneath my left knee and the bangle came into my view. I was empty.
No, it was worse than that. I’d burned all my energy up while still needing to heal. And, like a sugar rush, the crash was kicking in. Shit.
I felt a hand grab me and heard the girl’s voice. Was she trying to help me? It was no good. I didn’t have it in me to properly stand, let alone run and get far before Circus could move again.
“Get… somewhere safe…” I managed to say before I fell down to the ground.
Everything went dark afterwards.
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Well, this has been a proactive chapter.
Avalon’s clear voice called out as we approached the hole that had been left in the side of the massive sixty foot high wall. “Scout, near-left tower! Boy Porter, near-right tower! Mason, bridge over!”
The three of them acted immediately. Scout took a knee briefly, lifting her rifle into position at her shoulder before sighting in. A second later, she took the shot and the distant figure standing atop the tower who had been starting to react to our approach went pitching backwards, falling with a scream.
At the same time, Columbus simply looked up to find his own target on the other tower. As the guard was in the midst of calling out, the boy sent a powerful beam of concussive silver-blue light shooting up from his goggles. The blast took the guard full in the chest, lifting him clear off the tower before sending him flying…
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A snap of the fingers and she brings the rain. There has to be a power-cost associated with that level weather manipulation.
“So lemme see if I’ve got this straight,” Sean announced a bit later as he and the rest of my team stood in the Elvis docking bay along with Purin, Shiori, and Asenath. “The giant guys are aliens, she’s the vampire that helped save your dad from the bad guy, that kid we saw was banished here and cursed to stay no matter what they do, the guy you saw rescue the headmistress in your vision is now the bad guy that we have to rescue alien children from, and what else? Oh, right, the headmistress knows what we’ve been doing and has been sort of helping secretly from the background. That about sum it up?”
Thinking it through for a moment while tilting my head, I counted the points off on my finger before nodding. “Yup, I think that’s about the size of it.” I resisted the…
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Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi is a webcomic started in the early 2000s by an artist known as Bleedman and centers around the adventures of the Powerpuff Girls as they leave behind the city of Townsville for greener pastier in the city of Megaville, which contains characters from other Cartoon Network shows like the Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Samurai Jack, and Courage the Cowardly Dog, along with Nickelodeon shows and even other anime like Medabots. It’s a massive crossover with several moments of awesome.
After moving from their hometown, the girls try to fit in as the story continues and end up following different paths in the school. Blossom ends up working along side Dexter from Dexter’s Laboratory, Bubbles ends up becoming a cheerleader with Mandy and Olga, and Buttercup joins classes taught by Jack. This gives them different perspectives and character development that should be seen, and creates unique circumstances you would never see otherwise.
However, while it starts out as a comedic story, things aren’t all fun and dandy when they find themselves getting involved in a plot that involves the Cluster from My Life as a Teenage Robot among other threats. One of the latest arcs had several characters die and… well, just take a look:
Needless to say, some things get dark at times. But it has it’s heartwarming moments as well, and some of the romantic developments are interesting to watch. The artwork starts out less than stellar, but gradually improves to the extent that it’s visually noticeable.
Overall, it’s a good fan-comic over 10 years in the making and you should read it. It updates every few weeks or months depending on the artist’s whim.
You can find a Tv Tropes page: Here
And read it online for free: Here
Finally, some answers.
My eyes were wide with shock as I blurted out loud without thinking, “W-wait, what?! What do you mean, it was him? You’re talking about that noble guy that rescued you and Seller? He’s the bad guy?”
Gaia turned her attention to me, raising an eyebrow. “Ah. So that was your vision after all. I wondered about that. Your mother saw something… else.” Head tilting then, she added, “And you know Seller.”
Part of me wanted to reflexively flinch at that, but after thinking about it for a second, I just nodded. “We met when I visited home, just before everything happened with Ammon. Avalon set it up because I needed answers about my mother and why she and Deveron were erased from the old yearbooks.”
The older woman started to nod at that, then paused in mid-motion. I saw the way her forehead slowly wrinkled in apparent…
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There are so many twists in this chapter that I feel like I’m on a roller coaster. Also, are we talking Jean Grey pre-PF or post-PF?
In the past several months, I’d repeatedly had to reassess my standard for what the true definition of being dumbfounded was. Seeing Gaia Sinclaire simply take control of alien teleporter technology while standing on a different world entirely and just nonchalantly step into the room like that took my previous definition of that word and punted it all the way down the field. I was so thoroughly shocked in that moment that I couldn’t make actual words come out of my mouth. There were just vague sounds.
In the end, it was seeing the Meregan, beings twice my size with technology beyond what I could even begin to understand, shrinking back from her that snapped me out of my shock. “H-headmistress!” I blurted while having absolutely no idea whatsoever what I was going to follow that single word with.
Her eyes turned to me, and I started to…
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Family reunions are… informative.
A few minutes later, I got to see what it had looked like when Shiori and I had been transferred over. It… wasn’t anything special. Just like I hadn’t noticed that we were in a new place until afterward, I almost missed the fact that Asenath had arrived. One second there was no one standing in the designated space, and in the next, the vampire girl was suddenly there. It even took my Stranger sense a second to kick in to warn me that ‘ooh there was a big scary Alter standing there.’
Asenath had appeared with her back to us, facing the wall. She immediately pivoted back the right way, her gaze passing over the trio of tall Meregan just long enough to give them a nod of greeting before focusing on me. “Flick,” the deceptively-young looking vampire started smoothly. “Are you o–”
In mid-sentence, the girl…
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[-|Back in the Game |-]
[Chapter 7 -o0o- Start]
Soujiro Seta, guild-master of the West Wind Brigade, strode through the dark woods with three of his companions at his side. The soft glow of Nazuna’s Bug’s Light spell, which drifted around his party like fireflies, shrouded them in an almost teal aura. It glinted off the polished steel of his samurai equipment as they proceeded to the designated meeting location.
They were supposed to meet with two groups of players that his senior in the DTP had recently met, to further experiment with the game system. The three would work together in order to test the possibility of there being a way to attain actual food with flavor, something that would ease the weary and worried members of his guild and bring them a measure of peace.
Still, Soujiro had trouble believing they were in the actual world of Elder Tales. That was something he’d dreamed of after he heard about Sword Art Online—at least before its launch. He had even been in line for the opportunity to play it then, but he didn’t get a copy of the game before all of them were sold out. Then came the news that 10,000 people had been trapped inside, and he could only think about what a waste it was that things ended up like that.
The news had almost been enough to deter him from participating in Alfheim, but he gave it a try. It was a great experience, especially the flying. But then came the news that the creator had done something similar to SAO, and the game was shutdown after rumors of someone having finally reached the Floating City—an unaffiliated Spriggan of all races.
It was a shame that the creators of both games were so willing to ruin what should be a grand experience for everyone for selfish reasons. Now that it was happening a third time, to a classic game at that, leaving him wondering if the creators once more decided to forsake their fanbase for the sake of some selfish goal.
His thoughts turned to the people they would be meeting. The Crescent Moon Alliance and his West Wind Brigade were to bring one Cooking or Harvest-capable member, the guild-master or their representative, and two others to help with the fighting. The third party at the gathering would consist of survivors of SAO, acting as consultants or such.
He had decided to bring Nazuna and Isami as the two to help with the gathering, since they were dependable, but cooking was a bit of an issue. Dolce was his first choice, being a good cook IRL. But he didn’t have the Chef subclass, so he decided to remain behind to console the members of the guild who were in the middle of a panic over the circumstances. Sandy came along instead since her Farmer subclass could be used to help with the gathering, and the Crescent Moon Alliance would bring a Chef.
As for the survivors, Shiroe stated that their leader would be fairly forward when it came to answering questions about the event and their experiences, unlike most that were traumatized from the experience. And, as terrible as it was, he had to admit that he was morbidly curious what it was like to live with a sword in hand the majority of the time. He hoped he could have a chance to speak with the man without offending him.
He was brought out of his musings when he felt a slight tap on his shoulder. He turned to see that Nazuna was looking off to the side, further into the distance. “What’s wrong?”
“I hear fighting coming from that direction.” Her fox ears twitched a few times. “At least two people.”
“Really?” Isami stepped towards that direction, her orange hair rustling as a gentle breeze flowed. She tried to peer into the darkness, but it was to no avail. “I thought they weren’t gathering yet.”
“I don’t think they’re hunting,” she said, her ears leaning forward. “It sounds like steel clashing, sword against sword.”
“Hmm…” He rubbed his chin in thought for a moment before snapping his fingers. “Let’s check it out!”
“Shouldn’t we—ah, wait Director!” Isami called as he abruptly took off, leaving her reaching out for his fleeting figure. She groaned and then looked to Sandy, who was silently observing things from beneath the rim of her hood.
Leaving behind the Bug’s Lights, he rushed towards the sound of battle with the enhanced capabilities of his body. He couldn’t fly like when he was in ALO, but he was fast enough that he could feel the wind rushing past his face as it had when he soared the skies on emerald-green wings.
The sound of steel clashing grew tumultuous, and a faint light grew brighter as he neared the source. Soujiro stopped his agile gait at the edge of a clearing, and found that it had been turned into a makeshift camp. There was a fire off to one side, where a small girl with a dragon on her head and a samurai were quietly observing what was happening in a section further out. He turned to follow their line-of-sight and found himself just as captivated as they were.
The tips of two blades crashed into one another and left a spray of sparks that briefly lingered in the air as their owners broke away from one another. They both leapt back, covering a few meters so that they stood on the fringes of the circle of light cast by a Magic Light spell. The living sphere of light shifted its gaze back and forth between them with unblinking eyes and an intrigued smile.
The black-haired Kannagi—evident by her clothing and katana-class weapon—was panting, her chest rising and falling. Sweat glistened off her forehead as she held a formal stance he witnessed in Kendo demonstrations he found online. Her blade was at the front, centered on her opponent and ready with both hands on the hilt.
The black-haired… Swashbuckler, Soujiro realized as he focused on him and his health bar appeared with the double-sword icon next to it, was panting as well. But he took deeper breaths at a slower rate, eyes never leaving his opponent. He only had one of his two swords drawn, which he held in a non-standard pose by holding it behind him with his right-hand, while his empty hand and left feet were forward.
Strictly speaking at a glance, she probably had an advantage against him with that unorthodox pose. His front was wide-open, and the time it would take for her to cross the distance and bring her sword down would be more than enough to do some serious damage. Yet, she wasn’t capitalizing on it for some reason.
Instead, she shifted her stance so that it was lower and angled her blade to pierce rather than slash as befitting the weapon. The grass beneath her sandals shifted as though a spring breeze rolled around it, and a pair of small, ethereal wings appeared on her ankles. Then the air shuddered and popped as she kicked off the ground, spearing towards him at a heightened speed courtesy of the Ritual of the Tensokuhou skill.
In an instant, he slid his rear-leg further out in the angled direction and pivoted on it. Not only would it bring his unguarded side to the rear and get him off-line, but he’d be able to bring the blade down in an arch that would cut her down while she was coming in. She’d be unable to bring her sword around to defend and stopping short would still put her in harm’s way.
Perhaps realizing this, she didn’t stop. Instead, she stomped her foot down and pushed off to get airborne and flip over his head. Her sword became a silver streak at the same time as she swung it for his unprotected head.
Black strands were severed as he ducked his head down in time to avoid getting it sliced open, spinning around on his pivoting foot and carrying the downward momentum of the sword around into an upwards diagonal like a pendulum. The heavier blade met hers as she brought it into a guard position, birthing sparks as the still-aerial young woman went flying further back.
She fell into a roll as she landed, but got back onto her feet after the first rotation. It was just in time to intercept his blade as he rushed in. Her non-dominant hand braced the back of the blade, near the top, in an irregular guarding position to hold it steady as they locked together again.
The Swashbuckler grinned and said something to her. It was too far for Soujiro to hear, but whatever it was put a spot of crimson on her cheeks. The faint scent of apricots thickened in the air as she vanished and then reappeared some distance away, leaving only apricot flower petals where she had been, pulling out a piece of paper that was shaped like a person with writing on it.
The moment she threw it into the air and called out a name, the paper burst into countless scraps that reformed into the shape of a featureless human. Ghostly features set in over it, cladding it cheap armor and giving it a worn katana. The ill-equipped samurai stood in front of her as though to protect her.
“Souji, you shouldn’t run off like that.” Soujiro turned to see that Nazuna was approaching him, the others a few feet away. Her eyes shifted to the battle. “Is that the Ochimusha?”
“Is that the name of that?” he asked.
She nodded after giving it hard look, and then scratched her head in thought for a moment. “It’s been years since I’ve done the quest, but if I remember right, it’s supposed to be a warrior that fled from battle dishonorably and was struck down for his cowardice by an angry farmer, who lost their own son honorably on the battlefield. The ghost wandered around looking for a master to serve in hopes of redemption, and by finding the makeshift grave-marker and praying in front of it with a slip of Talisman Paper, the name of spirit would be etched into it and you can call it forth to serve you.”
“That sounds like a Kannagi-exclusive quest,” Isami said as she looked over his shoulder at the fight as well.
“In game terms, it’s a Rank 2 shikigami that you can obtain once your level reaches the 20s. It’s basically a brief attack buff that lasts for about five minutes and does additional damage attributed to the player—overlaying them like a ghost. It’s nothing special really since, if you’re a Kannagi, then you’ve got your own buffs at that level and there are better ones later on. In general, shikigami were simply added to the game content for role-players.”
He turned back to look at the Ochimusha as it tried to cut down the Swashbuckler from the front, while the Kannagi came in to strike him down from his other side. “The fact that we’re in the game seems to have changed the mechanics to where it fights alongside of you instead.”
The black-clad swordsman focused on the girl, seeing her as the greater threat. Rightfully so considering the sharpness of her strike as she cut through the air with a horizontal slash towards his chest. He blocked with black sword in his hand, the ringing of their blades loud and clear, leaving his back to the shikigami.
The Ochimusha immediately stepped forward, swinging the sword down in an arch towards his unprotected neck from the rear. The slash would surely hurt, even if it didn’t take off his head… unless it was a lucky critical. Could they still function without a head?
The unasked question went unanswered as he brought his other hand to the hilt of his sheathed sword and pulled it from its scabbard. The ivory-toned steel intercepted the shikigami’s katana with ease, stopping it short of his neck. Then he spun, unleashing a Whirlwind that released a shockwave that blew both of his opponents back.
Obsidian steel and ivory blade in hand, lightning crackled at his feet as he kicked off the ground towards the shikigami and lunged. As he did so, he spun in mid-air to turn himself into living saw that carved through the shikigami. He slid to a stop some distance away courtesy of the momentum and looked to see that the paper composing it burst into flames, and the ethereal features dissipated.
But he’d lost track of the young woman in the process, sucking in a sharp breath as he noticed that she had taken the momentary distraction to vanish from his sight. He clenched his teeth and then jerked his head up to see that she was coming down, her sword once more attempting to impale his head from above. Too fast to dodge, he resorted to crossing his blades and attempting to parry it.
Steel grated against steel as her blade was barely driven off its mark, slitting the side of his neck and shoulder as she came crashing down upon him. The landing left them on the ground, her mounting his stomach, and her blade pinned into the ground next to his head. There was a confident grin on her face as she looked down into his eyes, her mouth moving.
“‘I win, Onii-chan,’ is what she’s saying,” Nazuna said.
The Swashbuckler smiled… and then he planted his feet on the ground, bending his knees, and grabbed her by the lapels. In a single motion, he pushed off the ground and thrust his lower-body and torso upwards. That pushed her forward while his arms jerked her to the side, putting her on the ground and him on top of her.
The Swashbuckler mouthed something, and Soujiro looked to his second-in-command.
“We didn’t say swords-only,” she parroted as the Kannagi struggled against his weight upon her, but stopped after a moment. She closed her eyes and sighed, her mouth moving and Nazuna providing the words. “Fine, I give up. You win this time.”
Their spar finished, Soujiro found himself clapping as he walked forward while the Swashbuckler helped her up. All eyes fell onto him but he pressed on. “That was an amazing match between you two. I’m impressed.”
“It was more of a test of how PvP would work if our levels were about the same using the Teaching Function,” the Swashbuckler said as he sheathed his blades with a flourish. “Judging from the Samurai-attire, you must be the West Wind Brigade?”
He nodded. “And you must be the SAO survivors that Shiroe-Senpai mentioned.”
“I actually only played ALO,” the Kannagi admitted as she dusted herself off. “Onii-chan played both.”
“Is that so?” If that was the case, maybe they’d met some time before the game closed. “What race?”
“Sugu was a Sylph for over a year,” he said. “I picked a Spriggan because I liked the color scheme and didn’t really pay attention to anything else. I was just in a hurry to get to the World Tree at the time. The game shutdown after that, so I didn’t have a chance to enjoy it longer.”
“A Spriggan…” A passing thought occurred and he grew excited. “Wait, were you the Spriggan that made it to the top?”
The Swashbuckler scratched this cheek. “Yeah, I suppose so.”
“What was the Floating City like?” he asked, a tremor of anticipation in his voice. Because of how quickly the game was shutdown, he was always left wondering what was up at the top of the World Tree. Was it everything they hoped to see in the end?
The swordsman winced. “How do I say this…?” He sucked in a sharp breath and scratched the back of his head. “You understand that they shut the game down because several of the players in SAO had been trapped inside of Alfheim due to Nobuyuki, right?”
Soujiro nodded. While the game had been shutdown, not much information had been released to the public beyond the government issuing their statement. “It was something involving unethical testing, right?”
He tilted his hand back and forth. “Close enough, I guess. The point is that I had it on good authority that they were being held there, so I spearheaded the effort to confirm it. Once I got to the top of the World Tree, I found that the entrance was sealed off entirely because that was where he was carrying out unethical experimentation on those hostages. Players were never meant to be able to access that floor, so there was no need to code in what they told the general public. If I hadn’t gotten my hands on administrative clearance through some… dubious means, then I wouldn’t have been able to proceed further.”
The realization made Soujiro’s shoulders sag. “That means it was all a lie.”
“Yeah, it was.” There was a note of distaste in his voice as he confirmed as much, bringing his hand to his chest as though he had been wounded. “He was worse than Kayaba in that aspect, though they both ended up destroying the foundation of what could have been something great for the sake of their egos. They betrayed everyone who believed in them.”
Then the Swashbuckler sighed, letting the tension flow out of his body as he put back on a smile. “Anyway, let’s get the introductions out of the way. I’m Kirito, a Level 90 Swashbuckler-Sword Saint.”
“Soujiro Seta,” the guild-master of the West Wind Brigade offered in turn, giving him a slight bow in respect. “I am a Level 90 Samurai-Sword Saint as well.”
“I go by the name Leafa,” said the Kannagi as she sheathed her own sword. “I’m a Level 25 Kannagi-Acrobat. I look forward to working with you.”
“And I’m Klein,” announced the red-clad Samurai as he came up to them from behind. He stood in front of Nazuna and offered her his hand. “I’m a Samurai-Rune Knight, only Level 37 at the moment.”
She shook it briefly. “Nazuna, a Level 90 Kannagi-Gambler.” She placed her hands on her hip as she looked down to the young summoner with fox-ears similar to her own, lingering a little further away from her. “And who do we have here?”
“Silica,” she said, keeping her eyes to the ground between giving brief glances towards the older woman’s breasts. “I’m a Level 24 Summoner, with a Beast-Tamer subclass. I’m just keeping the fire ready with my Salamander.”
Her pet dragon made a low chirruping noise perched on her head. It instantly charmed Isami, who crouched down and reached to pat it on the head. “Aren’t you a cutie? Do you have a name too?”
“This is Pina,” Silica said, a little more animated. “I just tamed her before the expansion pack came online because she reminded me of a dragon I had in Sword Art Online.”
“Well, I’m Isami, a Level 90 Samurai-Accountant.” She nodded to the girl behind her, who gave a slight wave. “This is Sandy, a Level 90 Cleric-Farmer. Though she doesn’t say much, she’ll be handling the harvesting.”
The Samurai-Rune Knight, Klein, chucked a bit. “Well, I’m feeling a little inadequate around so many high-level players, but I’ll do my part with hunting once the other group arrives.”
Nazuna tapped her cheek in thought as she looked him up and down. “Well, you seem dependable enough. And I don’t think level will be much of a factor for this.”
“Should we take a seat around the fire?” Soujiro asked Kirito. “We can talk while we wait for the Crescent Moon Alliance to arrive. I don’t think it will take long.”
Kirito nodded. “That would be best.”
[LH -o0o- SAO]
The straw broom dusting that hardwood floor stilled in Serara’s hand when a ping reached her ears and her status screen popped up. Her Housekeeper level had ascended to Level 44, despite being two levels lower yesterday. Had she really been doing so much cleaning for that to happen?
She didn’t know whether or not to be pleased with that as she went back to cleaning up the place, wondering why she went with such a role-playing class in the first place, rather than something in production. At least then she could have focused on crafting something while she waited in boredom for the team that was supposed to help her get back to her guild.
Then again, rather than being a skilled housekeeper, she could be considered a housewife instead, since she was doing it to make the man that called this place home happy as well. She could just imagine her kitty-husband coming home and praising her in a deep and smooth voice that made her shudder in glee. The thought excited her so much that she began sweeping frantically and wantonly, a smile on her face and a giggle on her lips.
“Keep it down with the daydreaming a bit, will you?” said the other house guest in the corner. She was sitting at a table, her gloved hands handling a sheet of folded paper that she tilted the end over a small bottle of some chemical solution. Light-blue, fine grains flowed from the end like tea from a spout into the bottle. “It’s distracting, and neither of us wants a repeat of the last time I got distracted, do we?”
Serara chuckled nervously at that, rubbing the back of her head. The last time she’d gotten distracted, they tipped a few bottles of stabilized potions over and they vaporized on contact with the air, leaving them stuck in the room and unable to speak from the Weak Silencing Gas. Even when it wore off, the effect would be reapplied from the gas being confined and not dissipating quickly. “Ah, sorry Lisbeth. I was… just thinking about something.”
“It’s not like I don’t get it, but you shouldn’t get your hopes up so much like that until you know more.” The Monk-Blacksmith named Lisbeth pulled her goggles from over her eyes and left them to rest on her bed of pink-hair. “Trust me when I say that I know what it’s like to fall for someone who saved you, only for it to end poorly and you end up crying under a bridge or something.”
Serara owed Lisbeth of sticking up for her when she had been cornered, despite being even lower leveled than her. Things would have gotten hairy if Nyanta hadn’t showed up when he did, but she was still grateful that another girl was looking out for her in this place. So she considered her words a bit with a small frown.
Lisbeth winced. “That isn’t to say you can’t hope or go for it. Just be prepared for the worst and hope for the best when you eventually do confess to him.”
“C-Confess?” Her blush returned, even brighter than before. “What are you suggesting?”
A sly grin came across Lisbeth’s face upon seeing the girl’s reaction. “You’re looking pretty red there. If he walks in, I wonder what he’ll think.”
Desperate to change the subject, Serara pointed to the small batch of potions piled up on the table behind her. “Do you really need to make so many Status Effect gases?”
Lisbeth had a subclass cross-skill in Chemical Synthesis that a number of subclasses had, but it was mostly used by Alchemist, Poison-User, Pharmacist, Herbalist, and Salve-Maker subclasses, who used it to make items that fell into those categories. Blacksmiths could use it to enhance metals through alchemical solutions they made, though it was more practical to buy said solutions instead. She said that she dedicated mastery points towards a [Beginner] rank for some variety, mostly on a whim, and was now using it to create a simple alchemical potion that could be bought at an atelier—if they could leave the private property without being hunted, anyway.
Last Serara counted there were at least ten of them, but they couldn’t do any real damage—just inflict minor status effects that wouldn’t last more than five seconds, released thorough vaporization once they came in contact with the air once they stabilized… though the effect would be reapplied if the vapor cloud didn’t properly ventilate, as they learned.
“Even if help is on the way, I don’t think we’ll be getting out of this without a fight,” Lisbeth said as she pulled the goggles back over her eyes. “If that’s the case, I’m going to make them work for it. After all, I didn’t spend two years in a Death Game to get pushed around by some beef-headed jerk.”
That being said, Lisbeth got back to work and Serara went back to cleaning. While the latter did so, she had to wonder just who it was that saved the former, only to break her heart in the end? Who could have made someone willing to stand up to thugs larger than her bravely fall to tears beneath a bridge?
[Chapter 7 -o0o- End]
[Character -o0o- Status]
Name: Level – Class (Species – Build) and Subclass
Soujiro: Lv. 90 Samurai (Human – Iai Style Counter) with Sword Saint subclass
Nazuna: Lv. 90 Kannagi (Fox-Tail – Prayer Shrine Maiden) with Gambler subclass
Isami: Lv. 90 Samurai (Human – Standard Katana) with Accountant subclass
Sandy: Lv. 90 Cleric (Race of Ritual – High Healer) with Farmer subclass
Serara: Lv. 19 Druid (Human – Witch Doctor) with Housekeeper subclass
Lisbeth: Lv. 17 Monk (Human – Fortifying Smith) with Blacksmith subclass
[End -o0o- Notes]
End Notes: I needed someone on the production side of things to cover the changes there, so I decided to include Lisbeth. Also, the website I was using for information on LH stopped working, so now I have to rely on the wikia, which is under-developed compared to LH-Sub. So things will be a little slower.
Read the rest of the comics at Snafu-Comics – See more at: http://snafu-comics.com/swmcomic/like-tears-in-brain/#sthash.IgBtdiWp.dpuf
Written by Bananaowns
Images courtesy of Studio Deen
Comedy is difficult due to how hit or miss it can be. Comedic anime is no exception to this rule. So when you have a show that creates comedy out of the tired virtual-MMO trope, there is almost an expectation that it will suck. Luckily, the show that I am reviewing today managed to be an example of a comedy that worked perfectly. Konosuba had a relatively short run of ten episodes, but was quickly picked up for a second season. I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.
The story places a focus on Kazuma, a recently dead otaku. Kazuma died in a rather hilarious accident and was sent to the afterlife where he met the goddess, Aqua. Aqua gives him another chance at life by offering to send him to another world where he can go on…
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This’ll be an… interesting family reunion. Hope it’s not a bad time.
“Are you, uhh, are you really sure about this?” Shiori asked awhile later as the two of us followed Purin up out of the Elvis docking bay (or whatever it was called) back in the Meregan base/ship. We had raced back even faster than the trip out there, Purin seeming to trust that we knew how to drive the boulder-vehicle well enough that he pushed his own harder than he had before. It had been a wild ride.
“Because this,” Shiori continued in a quiet murmur, “seems like a plan that could go wrong really fast.”
Unable to deny that, I nodded. “You’re right, it could go wrong. It could backfire spectacularly. But if we’re gonna rescue those kids, we’re gonna need them.” Pausing then, I added, “And they’re my team.”
The girl paused briefly, a visible flinch crossing her face. “Right,” her voice faltered. “Your team.”
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Read the rest of the comics at Snafu-Comics – See more at: http://snafu-comics.com/swmcomic/borderline-destructive/#sthash.2f2g7zmQ.dpuf
Interesting thoughts on the Hangman’s alteration… wonder if it compounds over the years.
“AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!” I screamed out loud a few minutes later.
Beside me, Shiori provided her own enthusiastic agreement. “AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!”
The two of us yelled out loud in concert as the giant boulder posing as our vehicle went flying over the next sand dune and into the air. The boulder spun wildly, though our own view remained solidly forward. With our joined screams echoing in our ears, we flew a good fifty feet before the boulder came down once more to hit the ground. The impact sent a shower of sand spraying in every direction.
And yet, we weren’t injured. Whatever technology kept the inner part of the orb separate from the actual boulder also protected us from the force of impact. We still had enough sense of motion and g-forces to know they were there, but considering how wild the ride had been I was pretty sure that if…
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