"…Master." Kuruse whimpered to herself, as she lay on her back in her shared bed room, staring up as the ceiling fan circled above her. It had barely been two hours since she had first woken up to find that her Ashikabi had already left for school, but boredom and loneliness stretched it out until if felt like an eternity. Getting tired of watching the fan go round, she flipped over onto her stomach and buried her head in a pillow. "Please hurry back, Master."
"So, this is where you've been hiding out, new girl." Kuruse tilted her head back to find the twins, Mitsuha and Mitsuki standing in the doorway, along with Akitsu. The twins were still completely identical, wearing the exact same yellow sun dress. Kuruse wasn't even sure which one of them had been speaking, let alone which one was which.
Reflexively, Kuruse sprang up and backwards, not wanting to continue to leave the Sekirei mark on her back exposed to the three. Sadly, she had forgot to consider that she was currently on a bed instead of on ground level, so she fell off the side of the bed and toppled to the floor.
The twins burst into laughter at the display, as Kuruse was forced to push herself up off the floor. "Hey, no need to be so jumpy all the time, we don't bite." The twin on the left said, trying to stifle her giggles. "We just came around to check on you."
"We thought that you might be down in the dumps from having to be separated from you Ashikabi for the first time." Her sister said.
"We all know the feeling." The first said with a sad shrug.
"So, we thought we would take you shopping with us to pass the time." The sister on the right finished.
"Shopping?" Kuruse said, perking up a bit. She hadn't ever gone shopping before. From the television shows she had been able to watch, she had gathered that it was one of those activities that women were supposed to indulge in, but Koya hadn't ever allowed her to go shopping before. He had viewed her as a pest and wouldn't have let her out of his apartment, save for to chase after other Sekirei. However, her head sank a little when she remembered that she didn't have any money. "I can't. I lost my MBI ID card."
"That's alright, we can just use one of ours." The twin on the left said, waving off Kuruse's concern. "Besides, you really need some new clothes. A girl can't just have a single set you know. We have to look our best."
"Also, the ones you have on… kind of smell a little funny." The second sister said, fanning her hand in front of her nose. Kuruse flushed, realizing that she still smelled from her night sleeping in the alley. She hoped that her Ashikabi hadn't noticed.
"Now that you mention it, maybe we should all take a bath first." The first girl said, tapping her chin.
"No, that can wait till tonight." The other replied. "After all, I'm sure the new girl would rather take a bath with Kuro rather than just us."
"A…a b…bath with Master." Kuruse squeaked, imagining herself and Kuro squeezed together in the same kind of small bath tub that she had used in Koya's apartment. Kuro sitting in her lap with her soft pink hair resting against Kuruse's chest. The feel of her smooth wet skin.
The twins exchanged looks before bursting into laughter at the sight of the bright red flush spreading across the honey blond Sekirei's face. They were going to have some fun with this.
Kuruse had never been to the shopping district before. It was… an experience.
It was pretty crowded and loud. The constantly moving mass of humans was somewhat disconcerting for her, since everywhere they went people seemed to stare at her and her companions. The whispers that followed them around was enough to put her on edge. After all, she was fairly used to the idea that her enemies could be anywhere and anyone, so all the attention was making her paranoid.
Still, she couldn't deny that it was fun, going from store to store with the twins and Akitsu, trying on new clothes and looking at various shops. At one point in time they went into a pet store and the owner let Kuruse hold the cutest little kitten. The tiny thing looked like a miniature tiger, strips and all. Kuruse wanted to take him home with her, but they didn't know if the other girls' Ashikabi would allow for pets.
"Well this has been a productive afternoon." Mitsuki said proudly as the four sat down for lunch at one of the many eateries.
"Tell me about it, we got quite the haul." Mitsuha agreed, patting at one of the four large bags full of clothes. Despite what they said about going shopping to buy Kuruse some new clothes, they had gotten just as much for themselves and Akitsu as they had for the trident wielding girl.
"Yeah, this really has been… fun." Kuruse said, before taking a large sip from her milkshake and glancing over at her own bag of clothes.
Most of it was t-shirts with cute designs and nice skirts. There had been dresses that Kuruse had really wanted to try on, but all of them seemed to have zippers in the back that Kuruse had been unable to reach herself and was unwilling to ask for help. Even if they weren't her enemies, and she had warmed up to the twins far more than she thought she would, exposing her bare back to them felt far too dangerous. A single touch and a few muttered words and she could be terminated before she even realized what was going on. She had only just managed to unite with her true Ashikabi. She didn't want to do anything that might risk her chances of remaining by Kuro's side forever and ever. Not being able to try on the cuter dresses was an unfortunate sacrifice.
Though, at the twins' suggestion, she had grabbed some slightly less ordinary underwear. Kuruse didn't know much about it, but Mitsuha and Mitsuki had assured her that they would make Kuro happy. It didn't seem to make much sense, since usually, Kuro would not be able to see them, but the twins had insisted that it would help somehow.
"I'm glad you think so, because we have just about enough time to go to one last store before it is time to head back." Mitsuha said with a giggle.
"That's right, and we made sure to save the best for last." Mitsuki added, glancing across the road. Kuruse followed the twins' eyes to a store that they had passed by earlier. In the window displays were a variety of clothes. The clothes were a lot different than the ones the rest of the people in the streets were walking around in. They were a lot more attention grabbing, with bright colors, frills and funny hats. Above the shop window was the stores name in large boxed letter, though Kuruse couldn't read it, since it was in English.
"Another clothing store?" Kuruse said, not entirely sure what made this one special when compared to the others they had seen thus far.
'''No, it's a cosplay shop.''' The twins said together before breaking into laughter.
Kuruse could only frown, unsure of what was going on. "What's cosplay?"
Kuruse couldn't help but to let out a gasp as the four Sekirei entered the shop. She didn't know how, but it seemed so much larger and more grand on the inside than it had looked on the outside. Several dozen, maybe as much as a hundred racks full of different costumes filled the majority of the area with the walls dedicated to hats and props of all kinds. Witches hats, crowns, helmets, capes, toy swords and wands, and other things like jewelry and bracelets, as well as some weird things, like the same kind of collars she had seen back at the pet store, chains and other things that Kuruse didn't exactly know the name or purpose off.
After a moment of looking around, she noticed that the store was almost completely empty. Besides Kuruse and the other Sekirei, the only person in there was an older gentleman who was standing behind the register and reading from a rather old looking book.
As the door swung close behind them the man looked up and gave them a smile. "Welcome. What can I do for you young ladies?" He said, putting his book down on the table as he grated them.
The old man was a kind looking individual with well-kept silver-gray hair, worn skin and deep red eyes. In contrast to the contains of his store, which was mostly colorful and unique, he was dressed in a professional black business suit, complete with a tie and white undershirt. Though for some reason that Kuruse couldn't explain, even though he looked like a genuinely kind old gentleman, she felt a pricking running up her spine as she looked into his red eyes.
'''We're looking for something for our new friend here.''' The twins said, each of them putting a hand on one of Kuruse's shoulders and pushing for forward a step.
"Well then, feel free to look around. I'm sure you'll find something that catches your fancy, and don't hesitate to ask if you need assistance." The elder said, still as cheerful as can be.
'''We will.''' The twins said together before they practically dived into the racks of clothes, pulling out costume after costume to compare looks, sizes and feels.
Kuruse moved along the outside of the racks, pulling out an outfit here or there to get a closer look. Many of them was far more vibrant than the things she had seen in other stores that day; bright pinks and purples, dark reds and oranges, several mixed shades of blue. Strange things with cat ears or little wing clasps, one with chains similar to the ones on Akitsu's dress. None of them were things that Kuruse could really see herself wearing. Though there were others that were even stranger. Clothes that had metal armlets, integrated breast plates, tassets and small shoulder pauldrons, making them a mixture of clothing and medieval armor.
It was one of these more unique outfits that eventually caught her eye.
It was a deep blue short dress, with shorter sleeves and a frilly white underskirt. The metal plates attached to the skirt and upper dress were all polished steel and carried an odd red symbol, three disjointed shapes that when put together seemed to be forming a spear of sorts. Kuruse didn't know why, but for some reason, the symbol reminded her of Kuro.
"Has something caught your interest?" The old man asked Kuruse, giving her what she couldn't help but think was a knowing smile.
"Um, yes… sort of." Kuruse said, stepping back and holding out the outfit so that the man could get a better look at it. The man gave a loud humming sound, but otherwise didn't say anything. "Sir, this symbol. What does it mean?" Kuruse asked, pointing towards the spear-like mark.
"Meaning? I'm sure that it has a meaning to the right people, but it isn't something that is explained in a few words." The man said with a chuckle. "Nearly every costume in my store is based off of some old fairytale or legend. The story behind this one is a long one. If I started to tell it to you now, we would still be here talking about it long after the sun goes down."
"I see." Kuruse said, clearly not getting it. She couldn't imagine anything taking that long to explain, especially something as simple as a few shapes on a piece of metal. She suspected that they might not have had any meaning at all and that the man was just acting, the same way that Minaka did whenever he talked about 'the Age of the Gods', never really explaining what he meant by it.
The old man's smile turned more cocky as he gave the girl a sideways glance. "Tell me young lady, are you any interested in legends?"
"Well, not really." Kuruse admitted weakly, glancing over at the twins who were comparing what appeared to be nearly identical white dresses with thick purple bands attached to them. She wished that they would come over and save her from this strange man. Nice as he was, something about him made her feel uncomfortable.
"Really? Now that is a pity. There is nothing better than a good legend." The man said, not at all put off by Kuruse's disinterest. "Nothing can teach you more about humanity than the legends that they tell. Such fascinating creatures."
Kuruse was struck by the old man's odd words. It made it sound of if he himself wasn't human, or that he knew that she wasn't. Though that didn't seem possible. He couldn't have been a Sekirei. The very oldest looking Sekirei still only looked as though they were in their mid-twenties or brushing up against thirty. This man looked as if he was seventy at the very least.
"What? Are you not convinced? Well then, tell me this, what do you think is the meaning of life? Why do the humans exist?" The old man asked her. Kuruse was caught off guard by the question, not really knowing how to answer. She'd never really been one for contemplating the meaning of life. She had usually had more dire things to worry about. Seeing her confusion, the old man laughed. "Don't worry if you can't answer. It took the greatest minds mankind had to offer over two thousand years to puzzle it out. And do you know what the answer is…?" The old man paused for dramatic effect before finally declaring the answer. "There isn't any."
"There was no greater reason for why mankind exists. No divine purpose for them to fulfill. They were just a freak accident. They were never supposed to exist, and nobody wanted them. They were nothing more than a disruption to the greater order of the World." The old man said, seeming giddy with excitement. "And that is what makes them so amazing. Because their lives have no inherent meaning, they were forced to decide on a meaning for themselves. Something that had never been done before. In a stagnant world ruled by an oppressive divine order, they created something new to work towards; ideals. Honor, greatness, renown, kindness, wealth, progress, faith, and my personal favorites, love and justice, the ideals to which many humans have chosen to dedicate their lives to. This is why I love legends. Every hero pursues their own ideals to their dying breaths in hopes of somehow achieving them, and because if this, they are immortalized within the dreams of future generations. Can you imagine a more worthy existence?"
"Ah…" Kuruse didn't know what to day. The man had pushed past being merely suspicious and now seemed like a lunatic. How exactly do you deal with a man like this? Takami usually just hit Minaka with a clipboard whenever he was acting like this, but that wasn't really an option here. Kuruse didn't have a clipboard and a trident would probably be excessive.
Seeing the look that the young Sekirei was giving him, the man started to laugh loud enough to get the other girls' attention. "You think I'm crazy, don't you? Well that's alright. When you get as old as I am, you're bound to become a little crazy."
"Hey Kuruse, did you find something there?" One of the twins asked her. Kuruse didn't know whether to be relieved that she wasn't alone with the old man anymore, or annoyed that she yet again didn't know which twin was which anymore. She would just guess that this one was Mitsuha. It didn't seem to matter much anyways.
"So, you are going for the knight in shining armor look huh?" Mitsuki said as she looked over the costume.
"I'm sure that Kuro will love seeing you in it." Mitsuha said, causing Kuruse to blush a little.
"Oh, do you have another friend who is interested in these kinds of things?" The old man asked them.
"Yeah, a little girl name Kuro." Mitsuha said with a nodded. "She's just the cutest little thing."
"It was sooo much fun to play dress up with her." Mitsuki nodded in agreement with her sister. Kuruse had to hold back a scowl, hearing that the two of them had done such things with HER Ashikabi.
"Well in that cause, how about I give you something special that you can pass on to her as a present?" The old man said to Kuruse, with a smile that was a little too big for his face. "Think of it as my little way of thanking you for listening to an old man's ramblings."
Hayato knew that he should have felt relieved that things were going so well, and that Kuro had not had problems blending in at school for another day, but he was too busy being completely disgusted by it.
While at any ordinary high school, the sudden addition of a ten year old child genius would have caused major waves as individuals wanted to get the know the child better and show them that there was nothing to be afraid of and that everyone was friendly, at Hayato's high school, the school for the brats of the filthy reach, they had all looked at little Kuro with the same calculating eyes, evaluating just how much a friendship with her was worth and decided that she was worth nothing to them. Being a child genius from supposedly humble origins, they had labeled her a charity case, and in their social games, people without at least a ten million-dollar figure associated with their names weren't worth interacting with. So, Hayato's classmates flat out ignored Kuro. Even worse, some of them threw subtle insults at her, trying to make her feel unwelcome, though they seemed to go right over the girl's head.
Those brainless spoiled brats were insulting one of his Sekirei. It was enough to leave Hayato furious. He had controlled himself in class, but now that school was over, the frustration was boiling over. He needed a distraction.
"Mutsu, I think we should try to find some more of the unwinged Sekirei tonight." Hayato said as they got out of his limo back at his house. "The sooner the last of the Sekirei have been winged, the sooner the Sekirei Plan can start for real, correct?"
Mutsu looked down at him, cocking a single eyebrow. It was clear from his expression that he knew that Hayato was trying to cover up his bad mood, but he didn't call attention to it. "That is correct." Mutsu said with a nodded. "Do you want me to gather up the others?"
"With Kuro's abilities to track other Sekirei, we won't need a large search party." Hayato said looking over at Kuro.
"Hm… I've only ever seen one Sekirei who hasn't already been winged before, so I can't say I'll be able to tell which ones have or haven't been winged from afar, but I can find them, and I can make sure we aren't being ambushed." Kuro said in her usual manner, that being a rather stiff impression of what she probably thought a little girl was supposed to act like.
"That's perfectly fine. If we run across an already winged Sekirei we can decide whether we want to just ignore them or try to remove the competition." Hayato said. His main goal was to finish gathering up as many of the unwinged Sekirei as he could before the main event started. Until then, he was not as interested in fighting the other Ashikabi. If anything, that would just take away from the main event.
"Very well. Who do you plan on taking with you this time?" Mutsu asked the young Ashikabi.
"Let go with Himeko for offense and Taki for utility." Hayato started listing off the Sekirei he planned on taking with him. "We should likely take Akitsu along in case of emergencies and then the twins to keep a pair of eyes on her. And of course, yourself and Kuro. That should be more than enough. Though I suppose if Kuro is going, Kuruse is going to insist on coming along as well."
Eight Sekirei was still a large number, even if you consider that neither Kuro or Taki were direct combatants, but Hayato doubted he'd be able to convince Mutsu to allow for a smaller party. Still, it was better than showing up with twenty Sekirei in tow. It was hard to enjoy the game when the odds were so heavily stacked in his favor. He tried to keep the fights mostly one on one when the fights were even necessary, but his Sekirei were so enthusiastic about being the one to do it that it often dissolved into an internal conflict, not just being awkward, but also giving the target a chance to get away.
Luckily, Mutsu was more than content to remain a purely defensive player rather than fighting against every opponent they came across. Not that Hayato didn't have pride in his first Sekirei, it's just that the man was frankly too OP, capable of leveling entire buildings, even without the use of his more unique abilities. Hayato had seen him carve a ten-foot-long gash in solid concrete with a single swing of his sword. Mutsu himself told Hayato that the full use of his power wasn't something that he could use inside of the city, as he didn't wish to be responsible for how many deaths it would cause. Allowing him to fight would have sucked all the fun out of it right then and there. When Mutsu said that the single digit Sekirei were generally a tier above the rest when it came to raw power, it wasn't just hot air. Either him or Akitsu could likely hold their own even if five or six ordinary Sekirei tried to fight them at once, unless a Norito was involved, and even then, it wouldn't be a one-sided fight.
It was the reason why Hayato had such an advantage over all the other Ashikabi, because he was the only one who had managed to wing one of the single digits. However, that didn't mean he would always be the only one.
According to Mutsu, number zero one wasn't a part of Sekirei Plan, zero two was a non-combatant type, zero three worked directly with MBI and was therefore already spoken for, and zero eight had died years back. This left three combat type single digits, all of whom were still as of yet unwinged, even though they had been released before all the others. Each of them had managed to remain unwinged for nearly three years, if not more.
Hayato had long had his mind on those three, however actually getting at them wasn't easy. Without a way to track them down, he didn't have a reasonable way of dealing with them. He could send out search parties to find them, but unless either Akitsu or Mutsu were in those parties, they didn't stand much of a chance of dealing with the single digits. Numerous times his Sekirei had been intercepted by number zero six, the fire Sekirei, Homura, only to be outmatched and forced to retreat. Even in the few times when Akitsu had been there to match him, he would just slip away before reinforcements could arrive, moving into a more populated area where they couldn't fight, the coward.
However, with the introduction of Kuro and her ability to track down other Sekirei, that would change. He would finally be able to organize a plan for winging the final three members of the single digits, drastically improving his odds of winning the Sekirei Plan. Today would be Kuro's test run, to see just how well she can pinpoint the Sekirei's position and track individuals. After that he would work out how to get a hold of the real prizes, since beyond tracking them down, he would need to lure them into an area where they would be able to incapacitate them long enough to wing them without making a scene. The incident with the green girl was poorly handled, causing both unnecessary damage, a lot of headache, and costing him his chance of winging that particular Sekirei and nearly costing him one of his Sekirei. Hayato wasn't planning on making the same mistake again.
"Tonight, huh." Kuro said, looking up at the sky as she followed behind Hayato.
"Is something the matter with doing it tonight?" Hayato asked the young Sekirei.
"No, not really." Kuro said with a shake of her head. "It's just that since there is still school tomorrow, we will need to be back early so that you can get a full night's sleep, so if we want to have much time to search as possible, we will have to leave pretty early. Which means I probably won't have time to go buy groceries and cook dinner. I suppose I could make something light to tide everyone over until we get back and then have dinner afterwards, if someone can get the groceries."
"Ah… yes… I'm sure we can find someone to get the groceries for you." Hayato said, an eyebrow twitching. He was still getting used to the idea that the small girl was for some reason a master chef. It probably wouldn't take too much convincing to get one of the other girls to pick up whatever ingredients Kuro asked for.
Climbing the steps to his home, Hayato pushed open the door and was met with what to him was a rather common sight, that of Akitsu standing their waiting for him, dressed in whatever outfit the twins had convinced her to wear that day. "Welcome home, Master." Akitsu said with a bow.
Before Hayato could respond he heard a choking sound behind him and turned to see Kuro staring at the ice Sekirei with wide eyes and a slacked jaw.
Akitsu stood in front of Kuro, wearing a very familiar black dress with purple trimmings, and matching long gloves and boots. A dark purple blind fold with a design reminiscent of an eye covered the Sekirei mark on her forehead, and small chains jingled from where they were attached to her waist.
She was dressed exactly like Rider once had.
On top of being shocking in its own right, it also meant something even more terrifying. Waver hadn't been joking about telling the Wizard Marshal about what had happened to her, and the True Ancestor had already tracked her down.
'''Master, Kuro, you're back!''' The twins shouted as they ran towards the door, dressed in very similar outfits, only theirs were white instead of black, and with pretty white hairbands instead of the intimidating blindfold.
Kuro had never seen them before, but he assumed that if Akitsu was dressed as Medusa, then the twins were dressed as the other two Gorgon sisters, Stheno and Euryale. He briefly recalled the history of Medusa, the flawed Goddess of beauty who was not born with a Goddess's eternal youth. It actually fit with Akitsu's own story quite well, minus the being cursed by Athena and turned into a monster.
"Mas…Kuro, you're back." Kuruse said, entering the room behind the two sisters, and when Kuro saw what she was wearing, her mind truly went blank.
Kuruse was dressed in an outfit that matched what Saber's armor would have looked like, if it had included a miniskirt and shorter sleeves. The command seal design that had once been on Shirou's hand displayed on the breastplate for all to see. Will Kuruse had some physical characteristics similar to Saber, she was undoubtedly better endowed than the King of Knights. The end result being that she looked like a more sexed up version of Kuro's former Servant, and Kuro couldn't help but to blush.
Kuro tried to forcibly control herself and managed to do so just enough to recognize the fact that the armor wasn't just for show. A few enchantments were present to protect Kuruse from a fatal blow aimed for the chest. However, there was also an enchantment that increased the ease in which the skirt would be flipped up in the wind, despite having metal plates on it. The knowledge of which just caused Kuro to blush even harder.
"Do… do you like it?" Kuruse asked hesitantly, squirming around in a rather adorable fashion.
Kuro swallowed hard before replying. "It looks good on you."
'''Huh, so this is the kind of thing Kuro's into.''' The twins said together looking between the two. "Well, then she should really like what the new girl got for her." "That's for sure."
Kuruse swallowed and brought out a shopping back from behind her back. "I… I wasn't sure what you would like, but… the store keeper was kind enough to suggest something. I really hope you like it." She said, handing Kuro the back.
Kuro looked down into the back and just like that, all of the blood that had been pumping though her head suddenly drained away. She recognized the cloth that made up the costume inside of the bag in an instead. She nearly broke into tears.
'The Shroud of Martin… what did Zelretch do to you?'
Regardless what it looks like, it is still a powerful defensive item. Which will leave Kuro is a bad spot. Either she wears it, or she admits to having pride.