Did someone ask for talking heads? Because boy do these heads talk.
Chapter 2 Edit
“What are Spirits and humans to each other?” The book continues, this line marks the beginning of what is recognized as the second chapter. However, as at this point it was still meant to be a letter, it isn't quite correct to call it chapter two, even if most do. It is a second letter, or perhaps an addendum to the first letter, an idea the author had after having already finished the first one. Either way, this entry connects directly to the previous one, even if the point of view might seem to have shifted.
“Just like relationships between humans, there's no formula to it. On this battle royale, it can be said the Spirit is a servant and the human is their master. But that doesn't mean the Spirit is supposed to be a slave, that it must submit before the master. They can be friends, they can be business partners, they can dislike each other, they can argue often. Can a Spirit and a human love each other? It is possible, but what would come out of that? When two beings are essentially different, down to their very composition, species and world of origin, isn't seeing each other as mere battle partners the best choice? Either way, I seem to have digressed once more. These are my thoughts on the relationships between humans and Spirits...”
'I stayed up too late again... I don't even remember walking to my bed, this is gonna kill me one day...' At first sight, a zombie seems to be heading to school. Darkness surrounds the zombie's eyes, the fact it walks by dragging its feet is a show of how rotten its leg muscles have become. Its jaw never closes, it is likely to soon drop from its head altogether. The zombie holds onto the straps of a red backpack with white polka dots.
The zombie is just a yawning young girl, of course. Her bad decision-making might make her wish she could be dead, but she can't surrender just yet. After all, she has an important battle to win, she cannot die until completing that. She is Fei, the battler in contract with Assassin class. Short dark hair, a plump, short body, wearing the same school uniform most of the students around her wear. She's a student on the same grade as Elus and his friends, though not as popular and known as they are.
As she's crossing the school gates, she feels someone tapping her shoulders. It startles her, her body tenses up, almost like a scared animal. Her weird movement actually also surprises the person who tapped her shoulder, but the surprise only lasts a moment for both of them. Embarassed, Fei turns around and sees the blonde beauty who (Fei believes that) inhabits the dreams of every boy who's had the pleasure of meeting her: Illie Brown, who she'd love to be close enough to be able to call Brownie.
“Good morning!” Illie says, smiling cheerfully.
“M-morning!” It is surprising for her to be greeted in such manner, she didn't think Illie would even remember her face.
“You look tired. Did you stay up all night sorting the rest of your notes?” The 'girl from Class 3' that Illie decided to help the previous day was Fei. That was the first time they ever interacted directly, which is why she's surprised that Illie is acting so close to her already.
“Haha, yeah, a little...” A lie, but she can't get herself to say what she was actually doing.
“As a wise teacher of ours would say, you need balance! Treasure your study, but also treasure yourself, so don't push your body too far,” Illie tries to do an impression of Mila, but misses the mark.
“It's Mila, right? That was a perfect impression,” but Fei still laughs and compliments the impression.
Fei doesn't have many friends outside of her class, she asked Illie for help because she heard the rumors of the 'angel girl that helps everyone out.' She felt embarassed to ask for a stranger's help, but the girl accepted on the spot, visited her house on the very same day she asked for help and spent three hours helping her with everything she needed. The original idea was to just organize her notes, but hearing Fei's grades hadn't been that good, Illie insisted to help her study too.
Illie figured she was being meddling and Fei would probably feel bothered by her presence, but Fei turned out to be very glad to have someone be that caring. To Illie, it was the beginning of a new friendship, but Fei couldn't see it the same way. Because the 'angel' helped everyone, she figured she shouldn't be thinking of herself as anything special. But that is a misunderstanding that can easily be cleared, as long as Fei allows it.
As they're from different classes, their being together is short-lived, even if pleasant to both of them. During the short breaks between one period and another, Fei doesn't bother to leave her class. Illie is busy with David and El, so even if she thinks of going to Fei's class, she doesn't get the chance to. During lunch break, when she finally would leave her seat, Fei despairs. She opens her backpack and searches for 'a certain thing' that should be there, but isn't. She keeps repeating 'no, no, damn it,' almost turning her bag inside out to make sure it really isn't there.
The previous day, after Illie left, she felt the need to show her thanks in some way. So she baked some cookies and packed them on a pink plastic bag, closed it with a golden bow that looked really cute and started gathering the courage she'd need to deliver it the next day. The time she spent studying with Illie, plus the time baking cookies, plus the shows she wanted to watch, that's what messed her up, she pushed herself too far on a single weekday. However, despite her efforts, she forgot to bring the cookies with her She can just deliver it the next day, but she's still bothered by having forgotten about it today. 'I hate being so scatterbrained...' she curses herself, hitting her head on her desk.
She hears pecking coming from the window. And it's not something pecking close to the window, the very window is being pecked. She turns to it, just as the few students left on the classroom do, and there's a bird with a pink bag on its beak, pecking the window glass. Fei stands up abruptly and rushes to the window. She looks at the bird, her face flushed bright red. The bird drops the bag on her hands and flies away. She has this feeling the bird winked, but she can't confirm it, she believes she started seeing things on the heat of the moment.
“Assassin, you...” she follows the bird with her eyes until it can no longer be seen, showering it with her thanks, hoping the bird will carry her feelings to Assassin. “Wait, now I have to...”
The mission wasn't just getting the cookies, she still has to deliver them. The true challenge has only just started, she must find and approach Illie. '...Didn't I sabotage myself into forgetting this actually? I can't handle the weight of this bag...' she sighs, abandoning all hope and embracing that she's going to do something embarassing and that she'll probably regret.
'Objective one: Find Illie – Complete,' she narrates her own story. Currently, the girl peeks from a corner on the hallway, being as sneaky as she can. She sees Illie by the window, eating some sort of sandwich. However, the issue lies not on the girl, but on her surroundings. Two unknown boys can be seen, it's clear they don't happen to just be there, they're with her, they're talking to her. She doesn't know them, it'd be plain terrible to call for her and have the other two be watching their exchange. 'Should I abort mission?' she loses heart instantly.
“If a turtle lived within its shell forever... It'd die fast,” says a voice behind her. A chill goes down her spine, this is the second time on a single morning she's startled by someone suddenly sneaking on her.
“Ms. Mila...” She turns around, the courage she had built up has now completely crumbled. “Did that sound cooler in your head?”
“It did, but that's not the point right now. Who is it you're targeting?” Mila gets on the tip of her toes and peeks around the corner, just like Fei did before. “There's lots of people here... I can only imagine it isn't David...”
“I want to show Illie my thanks for helping me out yesterday...” She shows Mila the bag on her hands. It's not translucid enough to see the cookies inside, but Mila is savvy enough to tell there's something edible inside.
“Hmm, aren't you a cute fella?”
“I'm not cute!” She puffs her cheeks.
“Sure, sure, every student is cute to me. Youth itself is cute!” She pats Fei's head, laughing.
“...Aren't you pretty young yourself, Miss?”
“...Hm, yeah, I'm a twenty-something. But that's already old, right now I can't be cute anymore, I must work on being beautiful.”
“What's the difference?”
“Who you're appealing to. Hey! Don't change the subject, I almost fell for it.”
“But...” The girl's lips tremble, she isn't just playing, she's really nervous.
“I have a plan, trust me,” Mila winks. 'This teacher is so...' Fei can't find a word that adequately sums up Mila, she can only feel a vast admiration for her.
The two casually walk down the hallway, pretending to be chatting about something. When they walk past the trio, the three notice Mila there and wave, to which she replies in the same way, grinning. At this point, Fei must jump forward, but instead the girl cowers. Mila gently taps her back and pushes her forward, a very subtle movement, to make sure she doesn't end up becoming even more embarassed. What she does is like letting go of that child who just learned how to ride a bicycle, they're doing everything themselves, but believing there's someone there for them, holding their back, gives them courage.
“Illie, yesterday I... baked these to thank you for the help,” she offers the bag to Illie, but when she accidentally meets eyes with Elus, she momentarily freezes. 'Is this boy her friend? He's... Archer's battler...'
“Really? Thank you, that's so sweet!” Illie happily accepts the bag, opening it right away to taste the cookies. Even if she just had her lunch, she believes it's polite to do this. “By the way, you probably don't know each other. David, El, this is Fei, the girl from Class 3 I mentioned. Fei, these are David and El, classmates of mine.”
“Nice to meet you...” Her gaze keeps sliding to El's direction, she's sure his face is the same she saw on her Spirit Book, but it's hard to believe a battler would be so close to her. The two boys reply in the same manner. Elus is weirded out by the girl looking at him, Illie is oblivious and David is wondering if it's fine to ask for a cookie. “Are these two close friends?”
“Hm? Hmmm, I wonder now... One of them is a pain and the other invites me to his home at unbelievable hours, I feel saying I'm close to them would damage my reputation,” Fei translates this as 'yes, we are close,' but she wonders if that way of talking is how she is when acting naturally. Which leads her into thinking 'Which would mean she's not being herself around me...'
“What reputation?” 'Is that really what you think you need to retort to?!' Mila screams at El with her inner voice, but she's enjoying these antics more than anyone.
“My reputation as a decent, upstanding human being,” she left that door open, waiting for him to walk into it. She gives that answer with a large grin on her face, she's always happy when things go like she planned.
“Hm... Is that so, close friends...?” She mutters, her mind drifting away. The trio and Mila can faintly hear her voice, but they have no idea what she's saying. They only stare, waiting for her to say something in an audible voice. “Anyway! That was all, thanks.”
The girl turns around and walks away, leaving four confused expressions watching her go. 'Something around her felt really different. What happened to her?' Mila ponders, the Fei that walked away just now oozed a confidence she didn't previously possess. And time resumes for all of them, David asks for a cookie, which Illie refuses to give, making him go 'betrayed by my own Brownie...' as usual. Mila remembers her own affairs and goes back to caring about her own life.
Fei's obstinate aura doesn't waver for the rest of the morning. Their classes end at 1pm and on this particular day, her final period happened to be with Mila. Upon dismissing them, the teacher turns her eyes to Fei and notices the girl's aura still burns with a resolute flame. Mila, of course, has no idea of what is going on in the girl's head, but assumes something great is going to happen. The two meet eyes and Mila shows the girl a thumbs up, to which Fei responds with a powerful nod.
The girl steps out of school and waits by the gates. From her strut, one would have thought she was about to accomplish something big, but that climax is denied as she idles around the front gate, kicking pebbles. After no more than five minutes of standing there, a cool, refreshing breeze blows forth, which is the signal she had been waiting for.
“Assassin,” the girl says.
“Yes, my lord,” along with that breeze of wind, the man appeared by her side, already kneeling while keeping his head low. Some students are still around, so they point to the two and make gossip. 'That guy is often around her...' 'She's often fooling around with him after school...' 'Even though she's ugly, why is such a handsome...'
From head to shoes, all of Assassin's clothes are black, save for a red tie. He's very careful with his appearance, especially when he must appear before his master. Whenever he's free, he will often be found ironing his clothes. Afterwards, when he's in a very good mood, he also irons Fei's clothes, but especially her uniform, to ensure she'll always be at peak form when going to school. She says that's being overdoing it, but he insists it is all for 'the sake of my master's success.'
He has a pair of scars on his right cheek and wears an eyepatch over his left eye. His hair is also black and naturally spiky. Perhaps one of the pros of being a Spirit is unnatural hair that looks pretty. Those scars, the eyepatch, his defined face, all of it gives him an extremely mature aura. The rumors around him is that he is either a mobster or an ex-mobster, but regarding why such a dangerous individual would follow a high school girl like a puppy is a mystery. 'Maybe she's the daughter of a Don and he is the bodyguard? Or maybe he isn't a mobster at all...'
“Guide me to Archer's home,” her tone has changed to that of a true lord, he thinks.
“Have you decided to go serious?”
“We'll get serious,” she nods. 'I won't let my resolve waver!' the voice within Fei yells, believing that repeating it will be enough to keep the flame lit.
She resumes her march, proudly stepping forward, Assassin follows after her, guarding her back. After five minutes, she turns to the quiet Assassin behind her, her cheeks flushed. 'I don't know where he lives! Why are you the one following me!?' she's embarassed and angry. 'I couldn't dare to interrupt your majestic gait, my lord,' he kneels once more, apologizing in a rather flattering fashion. 'That's...!'
The two once more set out, this time with Assassin showing her the correct directions. She hadn't strayed that much from the ideal path, but if she hadn't come to her senses when she did, she would have taken a wrong path, and who knows how far the two would go until either of them stopped to analyze the situation.
“...He's late,” she taps her feet on the ground, growing impatient. She figured he was the type to head home straight away. She had nothing to back that up, she simply thought so.
“Perhaps it would have been better to have made an appointment.”
“...Did you just crack a joke? I... can't tell when it concerns you,” the edge of her mouth contorts, but she doesn't want to laugh at it without being sure of whether it was meant to be humorful or not.
“Hey, answer me.”
“Hey, answer your master,” she pokes his chest.
Without realizing, she progressively gets more and more aggressive, trying to get him to answer. By the point she's playfully throwing punching his chest while going 'hey, hey, hey,' El arrives. The man didn't mind her punches at all, each punch feels almost like a baby bird landing on his chest and jumping around before settling down. It even brings back memories of his life on the Spirit world. He often had to rest on the wilderness during journeyss, and for some reason animals would always gather on top of him and sleep.
“Ahem,” Assassin coughs, pointing to Elus. The boy stopped by the front gate, his hand on the knob, but his eyes locked on the two eccentrics showing an odd performance of physical abuse. Fei started enjoying herself and it escaped her that she had been waiting for El to come, but she recovers her composure immediately.
“This will probably sound weird, but would you mind if I intruded your home for a while?” She politely asks.
“Uh... I'll probably mind, but seeing you're already here I... think I'd feel bad to send you away,” the boy replies. 'The weird girl from this morning somehow knows where I live. As if that isn't enough, she brings a scary dude with her. I escaped with my life yesterday, but today isn't looking very good,' thinks the paranoid boy.
He doesn't have a place adequate for having people over, he hopes she doesn't mind being directed to the kitchen. He doesn't ask why, only gladly accepts the fact that the man she had been punching doesn't come into the house, she leaves him behind when entering. The only drink he can offer to any visit is tea, he hopes she doesn't mind that either. 'I'm not fit to be a host,' he thinks as the water boils.
Fei feels she's being watched. She looks around, but doesn't see anyone other than El, who's focused on the kettle in front of him. There is someone else around, she's sure. In fact, it would actually be weird for there not be anyone. A teenager wouldn't be leaving alone, it must be a sibling or maybe parents weirded out by the stranger on their kitchen. 'I did come without warning...'
“Hm, El? Are your parents home right now?”
“...No, not really.”
“Then... a sibling?”
“I don't have any of these either,” he cuts the gas and pours tea on two cups, handing one to her and taking the other with himself, as he chooses to sit on the opposite end of the table. 'No parents or siblings? Then...'
“Ah, I see. Of course. Then the person watching is...” she starts muttering again. She completely forgot she was here to discuss that very topic.
“You know, it's creepy enough that you know where I live and all, would it kill for you not to start talking that way when I'm already pretty tense here?” She feels quite attacked by his words, but, in a way, she can't blame him for feeling that way. Many details have been escapiing her recently, she keeps making situations weird for herself.
“Ah, sorry. Actually, I'm... here to tell you something important... It's hard to say this, especially since we barely know each other, but...”
“Uh oh, am I here at a bad time?” Both of them shiver upon hearing that voice coming from the window. For Fei, it's the third time she's startled on a single day, she's sick and tired of it. The ginger on the window is a familiar face to both of them, however.
“...” El freezes. 'She must have come for round 2,' he thinks. He's certain he is at a disadvantage, since she knows he is Archer and he doesn't her class. Not only that, his schoolmate is there, how will he get her to leave without saying 'A huge battle is gonna happen here, you can't be around'?
“Uh... Why would it be a bad time?” Fei is lost, but seeing El's expression upon looking at the girl, she can tell he is afraid of her. 'Why though? Archer clearly overpowered Saber yesterday, there's no reason to be afraid of her.'
“Weren't you about to confess to him?” Soa tilts her head, 'did I read the mood wrong?'
“No! It's something entirely different!”
“Ah, then I'll help myself in,” the girl says, nimbly jumping through the window and barrel-rolling inside the kitchen. But doing such an overdramatic movement inside a cramped room like this one is just asking for the result she gets: She rolls against the table and hits one of her ribs against a bar of thick wood. She just stands up quietly, pretending the aching doesn't exist.
“What do you mean... 'just help yourself in'?” 'Am I being so looked down upon that she feels she can just come in without a care? Her Spirit isn't around, why isn't Archer attacking her?' the boy's mind returns to the turmoil, a dangerous enemy is standing by his side, pulling a chair and sitting down around his kitchen's table.
“Exactly as the words imply, I came in,” Soa smiles. “Wait, I interrupted something, didn't I? What were you saying... little girl?”
“...Fei. The name is Fei,” she can't see that girl as old enough to have the right to call her 'little girl,' but, then again, all she knows about her is that her Spirit is Saber. “And I was saying... Since you're Illie's friend, and someone who studies on the same school as me, I think it's fine to... I think it's better to play it fair. So I'm here to announce I'm a battler too.”
“...” 'Two enemies. Two enemies invite themselves into my house and I just let it happen. To top it off, Archer is right by the door, peeking like a child, and not doing anything at all,' the boy's heart is too distorted. “So this is an ambush? Did you two plan this?”
“Hm? No, I'm just as surprised as you. Who'd ever guess this child would turn out to be a master.” Soa is taller than El, which makes him a young boy on her point of view. El is taller than Fei, and, to Soa, that means she must be younger than El. She won't believe the two when they tell her they're both highschoolers.
“As I said, the name is Fei.”
“...You still haven't explained what you're here for,” El turns to Soa, who's been fooling around almost as if she isn't the oddest one out there.
“Ah, actually I came here because I like fair game too. Did you know you're pretty much giving out your location? Don't you know how to hide your Core Energy?” Soa notices the two have cups of tea for themselves, she considers pouring one for herself too.
“Uh, your... you know, your... your power? Your magic. Don't you know how to hide it? You're like a sitting duck, asking to be shot.”
“...There's no way to hide this power, I was born with it running on my veins,” he feels offended by her suggestion. 'Pretending I don't have this would be denying my very self,' the foolish youth grits his teeth.
“...I've suddenly realized I don't care that much about helping you out with that,” 'People who get angry when you try to help them are the worst, I need something to help me relax,' is what she uses as an excuse to get up and serve herself some tea.
“Right now... you're within my territory, you know? Even if you think I'm weak, you two shouldn't be so lax...” He lowers his head, his fists closed tight in unjustified anger.
“You're a pretty painful guy, holy shit,” Fei thought that 'I can't hide this power' would be the end of it, but he goes and says another stupid, corny line.
“What do you think battles are? We're not enemies here, think of it as... an athletic meeting and your friend is on a different team. You're both competing to win, but is your friendship gone now?” Soa says, drinking the tea she poured for herself. It's actually too hot, but since she doesn't want to look stupid again, she's pretending to be fine. Fei notices the tears forming on her eyes, though.
“...What?” 'We're risking our lives here, Archer almost killed you yesterday,' El is at a loss, how can she say that? He can only imagine she's lying.
“I share a similar feeling. I see no reason for a hostile relationship.”
“...What are you planning to profit from that?” The two girls let out an exasperated sigh. It's almost as if what they're saying doesn't even enter his head.
“That reminds me, my Spirit is dying to fight your Archer again, is he up to it?”
“So you did come to attack after all!” He stands up violently, his chair scratches the floor as it is flunged backwards, letting out an unpleasant screeching sound.
“Just a friendly spar, she felt her climax was denied yesterday, so she's really cranky.”
“I'm not!” The woman screams, her voice coming from the window. She had been sitting on the backyard, leaning against the wall all along. If she pops her head on the window, she just knows Archer is gonna shoot, so she decided to entrust negotiations to Soa.
“See? You want it too, don't you?” She turns to the man cutely peeping into the room, only one of his eyes and part of his hair visible.
“I have no personal interests, every decision must be made by... master,” seeing he has been noticed, the man fully conceals himself behind the wall. 'Why are you hiding if you're gonna talk, silly?' Soa giggles.
'Wait,' El thinks. 'Her spirit is really strong, isn't it possible that... maybe on accident, she kills Archer? With Fei here, she won't follow up by killing me, I think, unless the two really are plotting together... I shouldn't let this opportunity pass! If I ordered Archer to get himself killed, I'm sure he'd obey it...'
“That could be good, now that I think about it. Let's do it,” Elus says, coyfully smiling. The other two would never guess what he's thinking as he accepts, they only assume he's finally being friendly.
Soa is about to jump through the window again, but El holds her back, pointing to the door that connects to the backyard. 'Ohh,' the girl says, wondering if that door was there before. After the two girls leave into the backyard, Archer enters the kitchen. Rather than blank as usual, his expression felt a little more serious. 'Are you fine with this?' he asks. By 'this,' he doesn't mean sparring itself, but the whole 'friendly relationship with opponents' idea. 'If I wasn't fine with it, I wouldn't accept it,' the boy answers, he hates how Archer acts all haughty from time to time, thinking he's smarter than El when he's pretty much just a puppet.
The two Spirits face each other, a distance of few meters between them. Not close enough for him to be within Saber's range, not distant enough for him to snipe her before she even has a chance to come close. In fact, they're closer to each other than they were on the previous night. Light surrounds Archer's hands, the summoning ritual to his equipment. Wind gathers around Saber's hand, the summoning ritual of her invisible sword.
“Why is her sword invisible? To make it harder to see the length?” El asks, hoping that sort of information isn't confidential.
“ 'A woman's sword is her life,' she answered me, when I asked,” Soa shrugs, it's just as much as a mystery to her as it is to El.
“...What is that supposed to mean...?” He's figured Soa doesn't know either, but can't contain his confusion upon being given that non-answer.
“Her identity can be discovered through her sword, is what it means. Knowing the class gives a general idea of the capabilities of a Spirit, but upon hearing their name, it becomes very easy to know what they're capable of,” Fei butts in. She's crouching, hugging her knees, while the other two stand. 'This will soon grow uncomfortable, should I just sit down on the ground...?'
“Hmm... if a Spirit doesn't know their own name, would they not know their own power?” El hopes they don't read too much into his question and just take it as a hypothetical one.
“I don't think so, they'd probably just feel sad to not remember their name. It isn't about knowing your own name, it's knowing your opponent's name,” Fei continues, summarizing the topic in a simple sentence.
“I see... You sure know a lot, don't you?” El turns to Fei, surprised that the shy-looking girl from this morning has such a side to herself.
“My Spirit is quite knowledgeable, he shares everything with me.”
“That's nice...” 'While on my case, I get...' El sighs, returning his attention to the match which is about to start.
Archer told a lie. Rather, he omitted some of the truth. He has lost a great portion of his memories, not just his identity. He remembers his world, he remembers he previously had a different master. He doesn't remember which part of the world he comes from, he doesn't remember who his other master is. Even if Saber showed her sword, or maybe if even went as far as saying her full name, he wouldn't get anything from such information, he doesn't remember anyone from the Spirit World.
Family, friends, partners, lovers, he doesn't know if he had any of those. Even if they walked right in front of him, he isn't sure he would recognize them. He is aware such a handicap would make him look terribly incompetent before his new master, which is why he decided to hide it. 'Maybe I'll remember something eventually, I don't need to tell him just yet...' he decided, but at the same time, he feels he's betraying his master's trust by doing so. Archer is lost in a conundrum, in either path he'll come out feeling inadequate, he cannot make a choice.
The one thing he knows for sure is that he can use these guns. There are more weapons available, but he'll use these as situations demand. Right now, the most proper choice of weapon are these two pistols, he feels confident on them. She has shown to be able to deflect one-handed fire, but under a full assault, she won't manage to avoid being hit, he's sure of it.
But then again, this isn't a deathmatch. He will disappoint Elus if he goes with everything he's got, it's supposed to be a friendly match. This is a convenient timing to explain his guns. On the outside, they're guns like any other that can be found on the Human world. Technically, they are, the true difference exists on the bullets. They're not normal bullets, they don't use metals or gunpowder, these bullets of his are bullets made out of Core Energy.
In simple terms, magical bullets. He doesn't use 'ammo,' only the power of the Core. Under a normal master, such power would be limited, the resources offered to would be lacking, leaving him to need to often recharge his power using the weak Core Energy that somehow started to exist on the Human world or be forced to carefully spend his bullet. But due to his master being Core-attuned since childhood, he can better feed Archer. In other words, even though Elus can't do magic himself, he works just fine as a battery for a Spirit. Saying that to the individual would greatly offend him, so it is better if nobody ever does so.
Since the bullets are created magically, their power is decided by how much energy is poured into the gun at the moment of pulling the trigger. On the first shot against Saber, Archer used fifty percent of his power, to avail the enemy. At each following shot, he increased the power. After she deflected the three simultaneous bullets, which had gradual increases in power, the last one being eighty percent, he felt personally challenged.
'On a friendly spar situation, what power percentage should I go with? I think... seventy-five percent on both guns would be fine...' Archer carefully considers how to move, he can't afford to continue acting innapropriately, his honor and pride as a servant must not be further sullied. Meanwhile, Saber waits. She doesn't want to just take an opponent down and claim a worthless victory. It's the act of overpowering the opponent, it's showing her superiority as she defeats the enemy, that's what gets her going.
Having settled how much strenght he must bring out, Archer finally starts his barrage. Unlike the previous night, the sound of his gunshots don't stand out so much. The town is alive currently, the sounds of people working, vehicles moving around and the everything of daily life covers for them. Six consecutive shots from both pistols meet with six slashes, the result is none of the bullets hitting the target.
This result is no surprised to him, he had already figured that, even with two guns, she'd still block all of it. It's not the number, it's the trajectory. The bullets need much less than a second to travel the distance between them, and on that span of time that's shorter than a fraction of a second, Saber can perfectly see each and every bullet moving and cut them before they strike. Her eyes perceive the movements almost as if they were a slideshow, frame per frame, easy to read through.
To counter such powerful perception, what can he do? To deal with a supernatural enemy, nothing better than the supernatural. Shining saucers form around Archer, taking flight right away and spreading across the backyard. Some close to the ground, some above the height of El's house, a few of them close to Archer, some near Saber, even if not within her sword's range. A total of twenty-four saucers have been deployed by him.
The black pistol aims straight for Saber, while the golden one is completely off her, targeting one of the saucers intead. The black pistol shoots twice, the other pistol shoots once. The bullet hits the saucer and bounces off into another saucer, almost as if it were a rubber ball. Saber cuts down the two straight bullets with ease, as she had done until now, but the ricocheting bullet escapes her eyes.
'This is it,' Archer thinks. The bouncing bullet makes no sound when hitting the saucers, Saber's eyes couldn't catch up with it. It is only a matter of time until he finally lands a hit on her, she can't avoid that which escaped her eyes from the start. Even if he knows the saucer will eventually redirect the bullet on her direction, the bouncing isn't under his control, even Archer doesn't know where the bullet will end up and when it'll be redirected to her. This attack being 'sure-hit' yet 'random even to the user' is a measure against opponents that can read minds. It wins against those who rely on knowing their enemy's thoughts in order to react, but this isn't the case. Saber only relies on her eyes and on her instincts, meaning that...
'Don't rely on eyes or ears... feel the wind!' She dodges the completely random bullet. She bends backwards, almost forming an angle of 90º degrees with her knees, and the bullet misses. Needless to say, Archer's blood boils once more, he loses sight of how this is supposed to be a friendly match and prepares to seriously strike Saber.
At this timing, those are the thoughts of those present on the scene:
“She's mocking me again...” Archer prepares to give one hundred percent of his power into shooting multiple bouncing bullets.
“Ah, Saber is cornered again,” thinks Soa, bothered that Saber starts the match by playing with the oponent and that ultimately messes with her overall results.
“I should pay attention to the saucers close to me, not the bullet, that should be the answer,” Saber tries to crack how to get around the random bullets.
“They're both good... Can Assassin fight like this too?” Fei has never seen Assassin fight, all he ever does is go around stalking the other Spirits, seeing what they can do.
“Ah, he's losing again. I hope she stops playing around and just lands a killing blow on him...” Elus is disappointed at how, even when Archer does something slightly cool, he fails to deliver.
“Both are magnificent warriors, I'm glad I have a chance to witness this,” currently, Assassin is watching from the rooftop, unnoticed by all.
Archer shoots four different saucers, then shoots straight bullets towards Saber while slowly walking to the left, drawing an arch around her. She can't close in, the bouncing bullets create a 'cage' around her, their great speed and unpredictable pattern don't allow her to casually step forward. Since he's walking, she needs to focus on constantly deflecting bullets and turning around to face him. 'Is my sword not enough...?' If she continues insisting on the same trick, it's a matter of time until she loses.
The direct fire isn't just to distract her from the random bullets, she's being given two choices of what to do, but the result is the same, she will be hit. She frees her left hand from holding onto her sword, a small chain of wind surrounds her arm, slowly taking shape, exactly as how it did when she summoned her sword. 'I think there's no other method... It's a shame to bring it out this early though...'
Before the wind finishes taking shape, all of the saucers break, shattering like glass disks, then vanishing like evaporating water. The bullets, without anything to redirect them, end up flying towards the vector they possessed at the time, none which was directed to Saber. One hits the wall, two bury themselves into the ground, the fourth flies towards the sky.
A small pebble hits Archer's face, making him become cool again and stop shooting. Seeing as the saucers are gone, the wind forming around her left arm dissipates and she lets go out of her sword, which also seems to be reduced to a gust, as nothing hits the ground despite her releasing it. Assassin jumps down from the roof, standing between the two with his hands clasped.
“It seems opposing forces like you two shouldn't be allowed to play with each other, you can't help but get serious, can you?” He laughs, beaming each of them with his one eye, which, somehow, makes the pressure of his staring even heavier.
“...” Archer makes his guns disappear, feeling embarassed about letting his pride get the best of him.
“Ahaha, sowwy!” Both of them feel too intimidated by Assassin's eye, Archer couldn't say anything, Saber breaks character to try and appeal to him.
“Let's just be glad nobody is hurt... But Saber,” he turns to her once more, a chill goes down her spine. She didn't name her class once, and she didn't quite do anything to prove she is a Saber. Despite having no evidence, he calls her Saber without a shred of doubt on how that is the truth. 'Scary, this man is scary,' the alarms inside her head go off. “A second sword, huh? Are you-?”
“Shh! I have no idea what you're talking about!” She shrugs and runs off towards Soa. Assassin smiles, finding it very good that he got some precious information out of this 'friendly' match.
Saber pretends to be upset for not managing to land a single hit on Archer again, Soa caresses her head playfully, saying they'll keep coming until she manages. El hears that and feels quite bothered by her words, but more about having her over than about having Saber fight Archer. Assassin and Fei don't exchange any words, but she notices a glint on his eye, which means he'll probably report something interesting later.
“Hmm, what do you wanna do now? Do you have any food to treat us?” Soa stretches her arms and back as she asks Elus.
“...What do you think this is? I barely have enough to-”
“Ah!” She raises her voice, interrupting him. “We didn't even introduce ourselves, did we? I'm Soa!”
“...” El sighs, he can't follow what goes on in that girl's brain, she surely must have some issue.
“I'm... Fei, nice to meet you,” the two girls shake hands, Soa clearly more excited than Fei. “A shame our Spirits can't name themselves. Save for Archer, since we all know it's Archer.”
“...” Archer remains in solemn silence, but he can feel Elus piercing eyes digging a hole through his face. 'This is something I cannot apologize for, it cannot be helped.'
“But let's be honest, mine is probably Saber and yours is probably Assassin, so what's the point of keeping up this farce?” Soa scratches her head, as far as it concerns her, these games of deception are a pain to keep up.
“Hmm, what's that? Now I'm sure yours isn't Saber. It's Berserker, isn't it? That's why she stayed on the defensive, if she attacks, the entire block will be blown away,” Fei teases Soa, even if she, better than anyone, knows that Saber is a Saber.
“If both of you have finished what you came here to do, shouldn't you be going home already?” El cuts into their conversation, rude as usual.
“...” Soa's grin is reduced to a wry smile, deep within her eyes, empathy can be found. She's pitying El, his behavior hits her as familiar. “Fei, want me to walk you home?”
“You don't even know where I live.”
“I just want to walk with you for a while. If it's too distant, I'll only go halfway with you.”
“...Sure, then,” the girl doesn't understand, but she accepts.
The two walk around the house and leave it, they figure El would start complaining if they went inside again. El inhales deeply, then lets all out in a long sigh. 'Finally they're gone, what a pain,' he mutters. Next, he turns to Archer, who's immobile by his side, like a mannequin. 'The other two were really lively, so this Spirit is the one that's broken... probably.' He chooses it's better not to think much about Archer, he'll just end up getting angry. He takes another deep breath, sighs again and heads to his study, ordering Archer not to bother him.
Meanwhile, the two girls, accompanied by their Spirits, walk together. Fei assumed Soa wanted to discuss something with her, but she hasn't said a word ever since they left. Assassin is sticking close to her, he probably couldn't read her intentions as well and decided to be close, just in case.
“Did you decide to come with me because you think I'm too young to walk alone?” Fei shoots into the dark, she's confused about Soa's intentions, but interested.
“That's part of it, but... There's something on my mind, I just don't know how to put it in a convincing way...” 'Ah, so that expression of her was a troubled one,' Soa had her gaze low and her smile was gone, Fei couldn't tell if she had just stopped having fun or if she had something heavy on her mind.
“We don't know each other for long, but I think you're fine being stupid. So say it in your stupid way, I'll take it more seriously if you use your own way of saying it,” Fei didn't mean any of that as an attack, even if it might sound that way.
“Really? That's a relief,” the tension around Soa is reduced, but she still hasn't returned to smiling. “Well... El still has lots of issues to deal with, by what I can tell, so he's pretty green. You're not as green as he is and you seem to be understanding, so... I'd like to have you two as allies, at least.”
“Hm? Where are you going with this?”
“One of the battlers... Caster is really troublesome. If he attacks us one by one, the three of us alone will easily be taken down by him. As an unit, however, we can be prepared for him, we can even counter him.”
“Caster...” Assassin managed to run into Caster once, but Caster wasn't fighting anyone and Assasin didn't start a battle either. Meaning that Fei has no idea of what sort of individual Caster might be. “Did you battle Caster by any chance?”
“While it is a shame to admit, we almost didn't make out of it alive,” Soa shakes her head, just remembering it is disappointing.
“...” Saber would like to retort, saying she held back or was feeling unwell at the time. But she can't make such excuses, she was beyond serious that day and her massive strenght only allowed her to open an escape route.
“...What do you think?” Fei turns to Assassin. Even if she's the battler, and in a normal situation that alone would be enough for her word to be supreme, her relationship with Assassin is nothing like that.
“Her words are honest, but... There is only one matter I must question: If we unite and defeat Caster together, what shall happen to the alliance then?” Assassin voices a thought that would only come to Fei much later, but Soa could imagine one of the two would ask that.
“I'll bail out of the game, if you want.”
“But, Soa...!” Saber hadn't heard of that before, she doesn't want to believe her battler would surrender that quickly.
“You know what I wished for, don't you?” Soa's expression is humble, she's feeling very light at this moment, without a care on the world.
“If you know, then you must be able to see it. It'll be fine if we take down Caster.”
“...Are you aware the only way to 'bail out' would be... having your Spirit killed and your book destroyed? And not even that would guarantee that... other battlers won't target you,” Assassin can only assume she's unaware, nobody would so lightly lay their lives like this.
“The part about losing her is a shame, I'd hope I could spend more time with her... But you'll be happy to return to your own world and have your real form, won't you?” Soa finally smiles again, but Saber can see she's forcing it. 'Why are you going so far...?' is the question plaguing all the three witnesses to her resolve.
“I can't dare to refuse someone with such a pure soul. My lord?”
“I'm the same, pretty much. If things come to that, I'll... protect you until the game ends properly, I won't let anyone kill you,” Fei holds Soa's hand, a flame burning within her eyes. Soa is happy to have her proposal accepted, the only problem is...
“Getting Elus to accept will be a pain. That kid won't trust anyone, he's got some complex,” she takes a step away, to free herself from Fei.
“We probably have some time to deal with that, let's give our best, partner!” Fei grins.
“Master. From this point on, we'd enter a path that would distance ourselves from our home too much, let's split up here,” Saber, to hide her frustration, puts up a front by being overly polite.
“Hm, sure. Bye, see ya,” Soa waves to Fei and Assassin, while Saber only offers the two a bow. The two see the two women off, then resume their return home.
The sun will soon set, night will cover the town and certain beings will begin to come out of their lairs. Owls and mice, night-shift workers and party-goers, ghosts and devils. The beings of the night are nothing like those of the day, those guided by the moon hold a different mindset than those who are guided by the sun.
That night, on a building that's particularly tall, at least when compared to the humble and small homes which are normal on that town, two men can be found admiring the moon. Or rather, one admires the moon, one admires the other man. The one admiring the moon wears very fancy, stylish clothes of a famous brand. He looks at the reflection of the moon on his wine glass and thinks about how even the moon has come to be within the grasp of his hand.
The other man is on his knees, his eyes only allowed to look at anything than the other man's feet when the man commands it. These commands which allow the kneeling man to move are either 'pour me another glass' or a completely vain 'you can admire my face for a few seconds, I have entered a good mood.' Upon seeing such a sight, what is the feeling that is called to you, the observer? Do you find it disgusting, do you find it normal for such relationships to exist? The relationship of these two is of Spirit and battler. However, the Spirit is not the one on his knees, acting to the beck and call of the rich man. It's the opposite, the human is the one acting as the Spirit's servant.
“Tonight... is a truly good night...”
“I didn't ask for your opinion, don't talk without permission,” the Spirit looks at the man with the same eyes humans look at roaches, one of pure disgust. “If tonight weren't a very delightful night for me, I would have lost my appetite just now. You're lucky. Or did you push your luck on purpose, because you know I'm happy?”
“...” The man doesn't dare reply. Whenever Caster talks like that, the man can feel the grim reaper's scythe around his neck, if he moves a milimeter from where he stands, his head will fly off.
“What a good boy,” Caster pets the man's head. By staying quiet, he ranked up, going from roach to dog. Caster sips on the wine and takes a deep breath. “Now, let's start the first act of the tragedy.”