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~New Moon~ Chapter One

Week 1: The Start of the War

The First Week: The first selection

Combatants Remaining: 128

Remaining Evenings: 6

Midday

A beeping sound from my terminal breaks me free of my trance, echoing inside the empty classroom. Once the preparation phase ended, those who couldn’t break free of the illusion that had been cast over them simply vanished, fading as if their renderer’s alpha channel had been set to zero.

I looked down to see the announcement:

The next combatants will be announced on the second floor bulletin board.

The sound of my Servant appearing drew my attention from the terminal and towards her.

“The Norns have spun their threads it would seem,” she said in a soft voice. “Shall we go learn of our foe’s name?”

I nodded, and she vanished with the same sound as before.

Opening the door, I stepped out of the classroom and walked down the stairwell, passing another Master who survived to this point. We briefly glanced at one another and continued along our paths. Whoever she was, she would be an enemy soon enough.

No, she was already an enemy.

On the bulletin board, a white sheet of paper had two names. Mine was obvious and warranted no mention. The other though…

Master: Baltr

Battlefield: First Chimeric Lunar Sea

Baltr.

That was the name of the first opponent I would face. The first person I would kill in this war. I should’ve been used to having to take the life of an enemy, whose face I did not recognize; a name I did not know.

At least I didn’t have to kill one of my comrades in the first round. But I still wasn’t ecstatic about this whole system of kill or be killed. Regardless, the prize would be worth it, if it would bring down the Harways.

I had to keep telling myself that.

“You’re my opponent, huh?” an unfamiliar voice came from behind me. Had I not been lost in thought, I would have noticed them approaching. I turned to face the voice.

He was a tall man, with black and gray hair that covered his face, only allowing slivers of his condescending eyes to reach mine. He wore a matching gray jacket, with tufts of black fur on the edges, and dark blue pants that nearly covered his black shoes.

“Hm,” he looked me up and down, “just a stone in my path.”

After that demeaning comment, he walked off.

My first opponent walked down the stairs and out of sight. When there was no one else around, my Servant appeared once again. Her eyes were like daggers, glaring in the direction of where he departed.

I understood instinctively that she would not forgive him for his words towards me. Regarding me as only a stone to be kicked out of the way, no more than a pebble, was an insult that she would not let slide. It seemed that this wouldn’t be an enemy we would regret killing.

We departed to the Nurse’s office, to retrieve some free healing supplies, before accessing the doorway that lead to the Arena. Along the way we were stopped by the ditzy adult-child, Taiga. She said she lost her favorite strap along on the first floor of the Arena and requested that we retrieve it by tomorrow.

With that out of the way, we made our way to the Arena.

//////

First Chimeric Lunar Sea – First Floor

We stepped off the Teleporter Pad. Dressed in formal wear that looked like a modified school uniform painted black, with a pair of fingerless, red gloves on my hands, and red sneakers on my feet, I was ready to explore the first floor and find the Cipher Key. Next to me was my Servant, who was dressed for battle.

A glimmering, sliver breastplate had appeared over the white linen kirtle, hugging her chest tightly. Metal greaves and boots decorated her feet, clanking with every step she took. Gloveless gauntlets wrapped her forearms, completing her armor set. Every piece of metal had a pattern engraved to make it look as though flames were licking the edges.

She was magnificent.

“Fylkir,” she addressed me. “From here on, we’ll be attacked by programs that are generated to provide a challenge in retrieving the Cipher Keys. I shall be your spear and strike them down.”

Although she said that with a warrior’s intent, I noticed her eyes seemed a little empty, waiting to be filled by my acceptance of her declaration. While it was be obvious that I would rely on her, she desired me to acknowledge it. Considering her past, I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise.

“Of course,” I told her. Her eyes briefly flashed gold in joy, and she turned away blushing.

We walked down the transparent, box-like maze structure for roughly a minute, when a program appeared from around a corner. It was box-like, split in half with some kind of tether inside that prevented it from pulling itself apart completely. The program attacked, but my Servant was already in front of me.

In a flash of flames, a scarlet spear—with the only alternate color being a golden streak that curved down the shaft—appeared in her hands. Holding it diagonally, she protected me from the attack with a hexagonal tiled shield, before twisting and thrusting the spear through the program. It convulsed rather violently as it began breaking down.

The program dissolved, and I felt as though a small amount of water was filling me up inside. EXP, I believe it was called. Considering my magic circuits were integrated well enough to empower Lancer to about half her true strength, it wasn’t necessary at this point. But still, this really was like a game.

Minus the whole, “lose and die,” thing.

Moving forward, we uncovered minor things in a few of the Data-Folders, including another school uniform, which I planned to sell back at the Commissary, before we found the Tiger Strap.

Somehow, I felt as though it belonged on a Kendo Sword.

A few more programs blocked our path, but they were no match for Lancer’s spear and were pierced.

//////

We found the Cipher Key, dead ahead in a green Data-Folder, when the cyber world inverted for a brief second. Lancer had already summoned her spear and was standing in front of me. The empty space between us and the Data-Folder was now filled by…a child.

It was a translucent child, an avatar whose renderer look stuck at the halfway point of the alpha channel. Staring at us with empty eyes, I felt no trace of life behind them.

“A cyber-ghost?” I wondered aloud.

Cyber-ghosts were the echoes of those who once lived and were recorded by Moon Cell. They were simply harmless data, in the form of humans. Although I heard that occasionally you could see an animal one.

The avatar of the child flickered, before erupting in a black torrent of data. Once the rising torrent settled, the avatar had taken on the form of a towering monstrosity, similar to the effigy used in the qualification round, but larger, darker, and jagged looking.

And unlike the silent effigy, this one howled.

“Fylkir, please get behind me!” Lancer asked, in a concerned manner that stood on edge. “This feeling…is it—”

The monster howled once again to silence Lancer, and then it started lurching towards us.

Lancer attacked.

She was a silver blur, with a red streak mixed in. I could barely make out when the strike she unleashed towards the monster’s chest had been launched.

But the monster could.

It swung down its arm, using brute force to knock the tip downward. The spear was embedded into the ground, and would require at least a second to pull out. But, Lancer did not have a second. The other arm was coming from below, attempting to deliver a blow that would cause massive damage.

It was a Break, a type of strike that could pierce a basic Guard. An Attack, which was faster than a Break, could stop it. But, with her spear in the ground, the Break would land, and send her flying.

If she hadn’t been a seasoned warrior, that was.

She placed her foot on the rising fist and rode it into the air, with the spear being pulled out by the force. Landing with a somersault, she crouched down in preparation for a thrust. Her slender legs rippled with power, as she charged forward.

The monster swiped its massive arm horizontally, along the path in front of her. Lancer used her momentum to flip forward in a single, fluid motion, and swung the spear down as she passed overhead. The tip made contact and it took the hit from the weak strike.

Not enough damage.

It was reeling to strike her once she landed, crushing her like a silver tomato against the ground. She didn’t move, preparing to launch a piercing strike through its abdomen. Even with her speed, she wouldn’t make it.

My turn then. I activated the formal gear’s code cast, “bomb(16);

Power surged from the tip of my outstretched hand, and a small explosion occurred on the monster’s head, stunning it momentarily. She struck then and she struck hard. When the scarlet spear ran through the monster, it was over.

“…!” Lancer pulled out her spear and used it to Guard. The massive strike it unleashed with its arm broke through the defense and left her skidding back towards me. Reviewing her health, I saw she lost 16% of her points in a single strike.

Moaning, but not defeated, the monstrosity born of a cyber-ghost vanished. The atmosphere rested, and Lancer turned to me.

“Such abnormal strength,” she commented, looking at the destruction caused to the environment. SE.RA.PH could normally repair the damage instantly, but at the current rate of restoration, it would take the remainder of the day. “That was far stronger than a program of this level, and since each specific Arena can only be accessed a pair of combatants at anytime…”

“We should assume that it was our opponent’s Servant?”

Considering the lack of anything but the single drive to inflict harm onto my Servant, using brute strength, we could only think of one class capable of such a thing:

Berserker.

“Fine then,” I told her. “We’ll assume that Baltr is using a Berserker Class Servant for now. We’ll still need to identify its true identity and come up with a counter plan.”

I wish I had accessed Shared Perception during the encounter. The others could’ve helped with gathering information about this Servant. I guess there’s always next time.

Couldn’t say it wasn’t an interesting start for the war.

Walking towards the teleporter with the Cipher Key, we left the Arena.

//////

Night

“Fylkir,” my Servant addressed me, no longer in her armor, but her modest kirtle. “I apologize for not defeating the enemy. My spear ran through the Servant of that condescending one, but it felt as though nothing was there. Perhaps we should have used one of my skills?”

“It’s fine,” I told her. “We made it out in one piece. Tomorrow, we’ll focus on researching the enemy.”

Although to be honest, all we knew was that a child’s cyber-ghost became a monster with ridiculous strength. That wasn’t much to go on.

But it was better than nothing.

And so, we turned in for the night.

/////

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