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~New Moon~ Chapter Three

Week 1: Graveyard

Remaining Evenings: 4

Midday

We were forced to retreat yesterday, in order to survive against that many enemies.

What were assumed was a Servant was actually something else, meaning that our enemy still hasn’t revealed their Servant’s identity. All we know is that Baltr is a serious threat that has to be handled. And then there’s that weird book of his that absorbed my code cast like nothing.

“Fylkir,” Lancer said, as she appeared next to me. “He mentioned the term ‘Aptergoer’, didn’t he?”

“Yeah,” I responded.

“An aptergoer is a term given to the walking dead, hailing from my culture. The fact that he used that term means that whoever his Servant is, we should assume they have a base in that same culture.”

That makes sense. Lancer would know, since she was a part of that same culture.

“So, let’s assume that Baltr’s using the cyber ghosts inside Moon Cell to his advantage. We still need to learn how he’s doing it. It could be some item or skill that his Servant has, or he could be hacking Moon Cell itself. We can’t jump to conclusions.”

Lancer closed her eyes and thought about it for a few seconds, before vanishing as the door to the classroom slid open. Myta walked in, with a soft smile on her face. In her hands was her terminal.

“It worked,” she said. “The Shared Perception worked like a charm and I received all the information.”

“What did you learn?”

“Well,” she shifted her glasses, “as you’ve probably guessed, the enemy is using cyber ghosts to fight their battles, most likely it’s a skill of the enemy Servant. The problem is that the Servant himself is being protected.”

“How?” I asked. I didn’t recall seeing the enemy Servant at all.

“When you sent that warning shot to Baltr, you noticed that book protected him, correct?” I nodded my head. “There’s a 75.9% chance that it’s the Servant, who is most likely a Caster.”

A Caster—a master of magic from an unknown age—whose prowess can only be guessed is our enemy. Lancer will not be happy about that.  She has a…history with Casters.

“I can create a Formal Wear to reveal the Servant’s true form, but I’ll need a certain item from Liar to do so. I’ve talked things over with him about it, but he wants you to retrieve something from the Arena for him.”

“…Alright, I’ll go see him later. Thanks for the help.” I told her honestly.

She smiled, before leaving the room. As soon as the room was empty again, Lancer reappeared.

“It had to be a deceitful Caster,” she mumbled, malice lacing her voice.

“Lancer, calm down.” I ordered. “I understand your frustration, but now isn’t the time.”

“As you wish, Fylkir.”

//////

Evening

Walking out to the garden, I find Liar flirting with two other Masters. He wore a red blazer with a yellow undershirt, and his short golden hair swayed in the wind. The girls were staring into his red eyes, drawn in like a magnet, while the words from his lips stole their hearts.

They were clearly not aware of the severity of the game considering they were actually talking about their plans once they leave the system. Once he spotted me, he politely sent them away and came over to greet me.

“Yo!” he said.

“You know, that was pretty cruel of you to lead them along like that,” I told him. “You know that there won’t be a later for them.”

“You say ‘cruel’, but in the end, it’s their own faults for not realizing the stakes. Let them have a little fun for now, seeing as the next round won’t be pleasant for anyone. Anyway, the reason I asked for a trade is because my Servant fell into an opponent’s trap and took some damage that won’t be healed for the rest of the day, but I need to retrieve something from the Second Floor of the Arena in order to set up a counter-measure.”

“This ‘something’ wouldn’t be gained from hacking the Arena, would it?” He grinned. “Thought so.”

“The item you need is an ‘Ofuda’, which I hacked to replace the regular data folders. I need only one of them, but the more the better. In exchange, I’ll go give Myta what she needs to help you out later today, since neither of us is entering the Arena.”

“Fine…” I mumbled, and with that he laughed his tail off and went to find those girls he was flirting with.

Walking back into the main building, I saw Taiga harassing some poor chump who called her Tiger. Once she was done menacing him, I handed over the strap, but then she suckered me into finding her Kendo shinai. For an AI, she’s pretty convincing.

Either way, next stop: The Arena.

//////

First Chimeric Lunar Sea – Second Floor

The Arena’s second floor was vastly different than before. Instead of empty darkness that spanned the void, it was a bleak and foggy world of broken tombstones and twisted gates, where coffins floated in the air and sounds echoed from all over.

“It’s like it’s mocking me…” I mumbled.

“The Arenas changes with each and every run through the Grail War.” Lancer said. “Although, I must agree with your statement considering who our opponent is. This domain seems suited for an enemy as malicious as a Caster.”

“Right,” I said, shifting the gloves on my hand. “Either way, let’s go. We’ve should focus on finding those Ofuda. Any sign of Baltr and we leave.”

“Understood,” Lancer responded, and we took off.

Walking through the shifting dirt beneath my feet, it truly felt as though the world before me was reality—a somewhat disturbing and twisted reality—but a reality nonetheless. Despite the lurking terror, I couldn’t help but feel that this world would still be a step up from Earth in its current condition. There has been no technological advancement in so long, and the constant fighting…

If Moon Cell could create a virtual world that would be undistinguishable from reality, then it could only be described as paradise. To be honest, compared to the hell of spending nearly every day in conflict, where one misstep can cause you to die, being in a coma would be better. While this Grail War is cruel, it’s at least organized so that those who cross over knowing what they’re getting into. They at least have a shot at accomplishing their dreams.

As for my dreams…

“Fylkir!” Lancer screamed, breaking me from my delusional state of thought. I leapt out of the way to avoid being attacked by some kind of “Bee” program, which fired its stinger and replaced it fast enough to fire it again like a slow machine gun. Lancer swiped at it with her spear and knocked it on the ground, finishing it with another stab.

Before either of us could breathe easy, another attack from behind grazed my arm and forced me to dive. While the damage was minimal, my health did decrease, and unlike my Servant, mine couldn’t be healed in the Arena. Turning and aiming with my gloves, I code cast and blasted it in the face, stunning it long enough for Lancer to pierce it with her spear.

“Fylkir, can you stand?” Lancer asked, as she reached out to pull me up.

I grabbed her hand and stood. “I’m fine. Still, where did the one from behind me come from? We’re on a straight path.”

“There’s a hidden passage somewhere along the left side we passed,” she said, as she walked over to where I assumed the program came from and appeared to walk on thin air. “Shall I scout ahead while you rest?”

“…No, we should always stay together,” I said. It would be too easy if Baltr appeared or another program spawned and took me out. “The damage was minimal at best, I can support you.”

We walked down the invisible path, a dirt road appearing with each step we took. When we arrived beyond the dense layer of fog, we discovered two regular data folders and one red data folder. Inside the green ones were the Ofuda, but inside the red one was a Formal Wear…it was a scarf of some kind. I’d test it another time, but for now we made our way back to the main path and down towards the center of the Arena.

We passed a few more weird programs along the way, including a dozen that were flat as boards but rotating around their Y-axis.  Not really a threat to Lancer, but they were starting to get annoying at the very least. We passed another two data folders, which I promptly raided and took the Ofuda. I still wanted to know why he wanted them though…

I guess I’ll keep one and give him the rest.

As we stood over a portion of the floor that was on top of the place where we would conduct our final battle with Baltr, we noticed a flux of magical energy ahead of us. Baltr was there, doing something with the book in his hand. Holding it towards the artificial moon in the sky, he recited what sounded like a prayer, in a language similar to what Lancer spoke occasionally.

“Lancer…don’t do it…” I whispered, noticing she was getting ready to do something incredibly reckless and stupid.

Lancer’s muscles tensed. Like a spring ready to fly forward, she was preparing to strike him down. The distance could be covered in less than two seconds, but somehow I doubt he would be caught off guard. I had to physically restrain her before she did something irrational and blew our cover.

A chill ran down my spine, and I fell back with Lancer in my arms, dragging her along. Whatever he was doing was unnatural…well, to be fair all of this was unnatural, but this felt ominous and deadly. Lancer didn’t struggle anymore and seemed to recognize what was happening.

Either way, this wasn’t the place for us to be talking about it. We had to split before he noticed us or sent a bunch of those undead after us. This place seemed like it was catered to him after all.

“Let’s. Go. Now.” I told Lancer in a very strict tone. She complied and we left the way we came, on alert the entire way to the teleporter. We were going to discuss her behavior the moment we got back to my room.

//////

Night

“Lancer,” I called for her in a serious tone. “We need to discuss the matter with Myta yesterday and Baltr today. You nearly compromised us, and if you had gone through with it, we could’ve been slapped with a penalty.”

“Fylkir, I—” she started, but I cut her off by raising my hand.

“We’ll start with Baltr. You let what happened to you in your past life overrule your judgment and my orders, to the point that I had to restrain you. We both know you could’ve simply shrugged me off and ran forward, but had you done that it would’ve been unforgivable, and a sign that our partnership was over.”

She glanced down at the ground, shame written all over her face. Though it pained me to lecture and criticize her actions, it was necessary. If anything happened to her, I would suffer the same fate, and she would never forgive herself if she was allowed to fight again in the future. In addition, the others were depending on me as well.

All of us needed to go as far as possible, so that one of us would claim the grail.

“As for Myta, I wouldn’t mind if it was just because you didn’t trust her. Despite the fact that she had been a loyal ally for longer than we’ve met, she is an enemy Master now. However, unless she and the others are directly opposing us in the next match, we should help and respect them just as well. But that look was one of jealousy, not of simple mistrust.”

Lancer said nothing, which I took as proof of my assumptions. “Lancer, I don’t need to go on any further about how your behavior is unbecoming, do I?”

“No, not at all.”

“Good,” I said. “Then this discussion is over for now. We’ll pick it up in the evening tomorrow.”

/////

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