Calling Card (Psyren x FSN -Nasuverse): Arc 2 – Chapter 10
‘Whe… s he… ing to ge… here…’
The foreign thoughts come flowing into my mind fragmented as I focus on the girl standing beneath my perch against the railing on the top floor of the Verde.
She’s largely unremarkable, a ‘6’ in terms of appearance at best with a ‘Cute’ appeal. Not bad, but still a bit below my usual standards and not my preference when it comes to women.
And I have to dock points for her being so wrapped up with her cell phone that she doesn’t notice that she’s being given my attention. That’s just rude. Ah well, its brains I’m after right now, not beauty.
Between us is a silver cord, a sliver of moonlight invisible to the naked eye as it ran from my hand to the top of her brown bed of hair. It was a connection between us forged of ether (at least that’s what I think it is), a building block element in magecraft that could basically become anything in the hands of a magus. Illusions made real until they disappeared, they allow for the realization of supernatural phenomenon in the outside world.
In this case, I’m using it to create a vessel to transmit trance waves in a condensed form. A cable meant to transmit information directly from one point to another, rather than sending out signals unprotected like a satellite dish using pure visualization—exchanging range for clarity. It’s still subjected to the being influenced by the atmospheric conditions, but at the same time the ether shell acts as a shield to protect the more sensitive trance waves that flow into it and allows for mind-reading.
‘He’d be…r no…be with Oriana again.’
Because it’s difficult to hold the connection with the world trying to crush, I can’t properly read her thoughts. But if the others were right about our abilities scaling over time, and being easier to use in the future, I can use it more effectively later on. With enough practice, I should be able to read thoughts, send my own, and interpret the signals to the brain for the senses—at least that’s what I gleamed from the Old Worm’s collection.
Then again, how much of that’s a coincidence?
It’s only because I had access to the Matou Library and the Old Worm’s work over the centuries (and my own natural talent) that I could fabricate the creation of this connection in such a short time. Combined with the fact that I leaned towards Trance while it was underdeveloped among our group, it seems like I was born for furthering it and may have been part of the reason Nemesis Q dragged me into this.
Natural-born psychic abilities are usually seen as the result of a defect written into the soul that had to be repaired once it went through reincarnation within the Akasha. Because a psychic perceived reality from a different angle from the moment of their birth, interacting with that perception and realizing a supernatural phenomenon should come as easily as breathing. It wouldn’t be wrong to call them sapient Mystic Codes, living wands meant to perform specialized feats.
Though they usually lasted a single generation, it was possible to pass on some abilities through bloodlines. That involved the introduction of inhuman blood (resulting in mixed-bloods) or by interbreeding and removing oneself away from the trappings of normal society. For someone raised far away from society, surrounded by similar individuals that possess an abnormal channel from birth, that abnormal perception would instead become normal and maximize the chances of it settling in.
In contrast, magi exchanged ease of use with versatility. They could shift their ability to interact with the world through Magic Circuits, which could be passed on along with their craft through bloodlines naturally. They weren’t hindered by the same social issues as natural-born psychics were, but because they could manipulate the world in ways others couldn’t imagine, there’s a clear line drawn between them and the rest of the unaware world.
Drifters appear to be something in the middle of that. We weren’t psychics, born differently from everyone. But we weren’t magi either, who were still linked to the normal perception of society and could turn off their ability to interact with it through circuits. If I had to take an educated guess, we were an intentional effort at turning humans into weapons—artificial psychics with the capabilities of modern magi.
Our abilities aren’t as natural because we weren’t initially born with the mutation necessary to perceive the world differently than the whole of society. But we are able to cause supernatural phenomena with only our minds and not circuits. More so, it seems that we have a stable foundation that serves as the base of our powers, and we can be taught how to refine our abilities and practice them in a more structured manner.
Ayako had been right that Nemesis Q had turned us into living tools for whatever it had planned to supposedly save the future. But, more than that, she may also be right that it’s picking and choosing who lives and dies in terms of how valuable they are as an asset. Not just in terms of abilities, but connections.
If she hadn’t been lying about the amount of power she could bring forth, and the fact that our abilities supposedly grew over time, then Ayako could easily do enough damage to be considered irreplaceable. But she had been becoming more and more fragile from the stress of it; to the extent I picked up on it easily. Since the Student President couldn’t accompany her, she had been going alone and felt like an outcast because no one could understand what she was actively going through barring him—and his time was limited given his duties.
How long until she got depressed to the point of suicidal or overworked herself without care in hopes of saving anyone so they could understand what she was doing?
Yet, she managed to pass herself off as normal to those girls from the Track Club after a single day. The person she’s been since yesterday is a strong contrast to how she’s been lately. The major difference is that Gai and I are now involved.
Though she may feel guilty about our involvement, on some level I believe that she is happy that she doesn’t have to do it alone. And some of that guilt is absolved because she’s not directly responsible, both of us seemingly ended up finding cards through our own efforts. Likewise, the veterans feel the need to help others like them because they are still the only ones that can relate to them and it gives them purpose in this time of peace.
Though we’re a small community, we’re functionally becoming the same as clans and families that possess psychic powers. Because we’re a group, we can function better in society and have more mental stability. And because the veterans can train us, our ability to survive the increasingly dangerous scenarios rises as well.
Ironically, I feel like even more of an outcast compared to even the other Drifters—I may not be a magus, but I know more of the Moonlit world than all of them. And I can’t tell any of them about it considering what I did during the Holy Grail War. The last thing I need right now was for that to get out—
‘What exactly do you think you’re doing, Matou? ’
The abrupt intrusion of the mental voice shatters my concentration. I look away from the girl as the connection breaks and find the Student President on the ground floor. He’s staring up at me while adjusting his glasses with one hand.
And next to him is Emiya, holding a notepad and pen in his hands.
The autumn sun has started setting as the Student President, Emiya, and I make our way across the Big Bridge.
The pair had come to the Verde to finish their arrangements for the cultural festival and, in Emiya’s case, do some light shopping for dinner ingredients since he was there. The nearing of winter has left the air chilled enough that the field where children play soccer is abandoned. The only sound to be heard aloud is the stirring water from the river beneath the bridge, and the wind as whistles along its journey.
‘—it is the ethics of doing so on ordinary people that is the problem! ’
‘I’m doing what I need to in order to improve. Get over it. ’
In our minds, it was a different story. Since then I’ve had to put up with the mental blathering of the third wheel and his refusal to leave me alone to do my experimentation. In fact, he had actually threatened to teleport me all the way back to the Copenhagen if I didn’t comply, making the trip home longer than it needs to be.
‘Have you no sense of boundaries? ’
‘Trust me when I say there was nothing you wouldn’t expect to find in a teenage girl’s mind there. Not that you’d really know about women in general, but the point stands. ’
I have to unravel the strings being pulled and untangle myself from all of this. I won’t allow myself to be played like I was by Gilgamesh and was turned into… ugh. To that end, I need to improve where I can and live long enough to find a way out of Nemesis Q’s grasp.
He glares at me from behind. ‘That answers my question. Apparently, you do not. ’
‘I really don’t care about the privacy of someone I don’t know when my life is on the line, and I won’t waste the effort pretending otherwise just to follow your beliefs. ’
Emiya, ignorant of our mental exchange, breaks the audible silence between us with a question. “Any idea what the Archery Club will be doing for the Cultural Festival?”
I shrug. “You’d have to ask Mitsuzuri since she’s the one handling that.”
The Student President speaks up to that. “They had an idea for a cake shop, but I had to refuse it since the food and drink group has already been filled. They’ll simply have to resubmit a different proposal by tomorrow.”
I look over my shoulder towards him and frown. ‘You know that Mitsuzuri has enough to deal with without the obstruction and with Sakura’s talent for pastries it could work. Just give the club a pass rather than making them do the paperwork over again. ’
‘While I may make exemptions for matters related to our other activities, I must remain impartial to school functions. ’
‘What good is having a position of power if you’re not going to use it to make life easier for yourself and the people you actually care about? ’
‘Unlike you, I actually hold being responsible and fair, as one in my position is supposed to do, as values to live by. It is not as though they will die from my refusal. ’
“Shinji.” Emiya’s voice grabs my attention. “Issei told me that the Archery Club is having a training camp at the Temple. Are you going to be participating?”
I scoff. “Of course not. I have better things to do with my time and Sakura needs to take the reins. We can’t hold her hand all the time.”
“Will you be attending, Emiya?” asks the thorn in my side.
“No, I’m not a part of the Archery Club so I don’t really have any right to go there.”
A part of me wonders if I’m responsible for that. “You know, you didn’t have to leave just because of what I said back then. If you’ve got regrets about it, then feel free to join back up. Mitsuzuri and Sakura won’t complain having an ace on board for the upcoming tournament.”
He merely shakes his head. “I have no real regrets. There was nothing further I could learn from the club. You simply gave me an excuse so that I could pursue something else to lead me to where I need to go.”
Where he needs to go, huh? Given its Tohsaka he’s been hanging around, I suspect that she intends to drag him off to the Clocktower for a formal education in magecraft. Stupid of her, considering she’s supposed to be the Second Owner of this land and once she’s gone there won’t be any more magi to oversee it.
She wouldn’t dare hand the reins over to Sakura after her family had sold her to ours. Not to mention Sakura didn’t have any formal training to defend the territory. And the only other person from that side of the world would be the old man that had taken the Priest’s place after Lancer gouged out his heart, but since the land she was in charge of was given to her by the Mage’s Association, I doubt they’d let the Church seriously overlook it.
Either way, I guess I should be supportive of him. “Well, if it’s something you find interesting then chances are that I don’t care about it. As long as it makes you happy then that’s fine.”
“I still believe that the lifestyle of a monk would suit Emiya best, but I shall nonetheless pray for whatever your aspirations are to come to pass.”
“Knowing that you’re praying for my success is a relief,” he says to that in a tone that sounds sincere, somehow. Then he turns to me. “What about you, Shinji? Fuji-nee mentioned that you didn’t fill out your Higher Education Aspiration Form. I know Issei intends to go into training at the Temple, but I thought for certain you would be making an attempt to attend a prestigious university or something?”
“Don’t be an idiot. I’m the heir to my family fortune, meaning I can’t leave Fuyuki long enough to attend any of the good universities.” Not that I need it, given I live in a manor bigger than Tohsaka’s. “Though that means Sakura’s free to do whatever she wants when she graduates. If she wants to go somewhere to better herself, I can afford to pay her way so she can contribute to the household.”
Emiya’s brows fold in slightly. “Hmm… now that I think about it, I don’t recall Sakura mentioning what she wants to do in the future either.”
“Have you actually asked her?” If there’s anyone who she’d tell, it’d be Emiya. “She’s not the type that speaks up on her own unless pressed into it. There’s a reason Mitsuzuri and I have been guiding her until now, and while she’s improved she still needs a push every now and again.”
Though, considering how things were before the Old Worm was taken care of, she probably didn’t have anything planned out in the long-run. Now she has the freedom to choose, but I can’t help but wonder if she actually intends to use it. I should probably look into sending her off and ensuring she has enough education to manage the estate and everything in it, should the worse happen between the nightmares and what I’ve gotten myself involved in.
“It’s never come up, but I guess I can ask.” He looks down at the bags he’s carrying. “Actually, would both of you like to come over for dinner tonight? There should be enough for five or six easily, and Sakura’s making dessert. I know Issei visited a little while ago, but I don’t think you’ve ever come inside. I can give you a tour before dinner.”
He’s right. In the five years we’ve known each other, I’ve never been beyond his front-door. But, during the times when I held nothing but contempt for Sakura, Emiya’s home was a safe-haven for her. I could do whatever I wanted before and after she left there, but inside she had a reprieve.
I don’t want to intrude on it now. “… Thanks, but no thanks.”
“I see.” And just like that he drops it, nothing further needing to be said on the subject. He doesn’t need to know the reason why. He doesn’t try to convince me over something pointless. He may be an idiot, but I could appreciate that much from him.
“Unfortunately, I have matters to attend to with my Brother Reikan at the Temple. So I must pass on the offer as well.”
Emiya nods in understanding. “Another time then.”
‘Matou. ’ I turn my attention to the Student President at the prodding to find the expression on his face was one of utmost seriousness. The type of look that promised retribution if crossed, unlike before. It suited him somewhat. ‘I don’t think I need to state this, but don’t mention anything about what we do to Emiya. I will not allow him to become involved in this. ’
…He doesn’t know Emiya as well as he thinks. There’s no one I know more qualified than him to handle this. But, since I learn from my mistakes, I’m not willing to risk getting myself killed again by Nemesis Q trying to bring him into the loop a second time.
Besides, someone has to look after Sakura while this eats up my time. ‘Didn’t plan on it. The idiot is more useful here right now anyway. ’
Silence descends once more. Both conversations come to a close with nothing further needing to be said and the walk to our homes continue without any further abnormality. It would be a thing to be missed in the weeks to come.