Chapter 31: Magical Formula

"You have the strangest luck, cousin," Sebastian noted, breaking the tense silence that had filled the room after Alexander was done explaining his latest dream-vision to his family.

"Tell me about it," Alexander grumbled, rubbing his forehead. He looked up at his family. They were all in the living room, confused and concerned expressions on their faces.

"How likely is it this was just a dream?" 9S asked Emil, who shrugged helplessly.

"I highly doubt it," the skullboy admitted. "While I never had them, I do recall Nier had curious dreams and visions of his 'past,' as well as of his counterpart. But I merely assumed this was due to their connection with each other, and not due to magic. Then again, he did only start having them after acquiring the artificial magical tome-device known as Weiss."

"However, dreams and visions are quite common in myth and magical lore. There are a lot of stories and tales of such abilities, though they are often vague, and very rarely as clear and visible, for lack of a better term."

Emil sighed and shook his large, permanently grinning head. "To be honest, though, a lot of what Alex here described seems more akin to Astral Projection than a genuine dream-vision."

"Is there a difference?" 2B inquired curiously.

"Dream-visions are general vague and rarely clearly understood. Also, they tend to be more symbolic," Emil explained. "Astral Projection is where the person in question is able to send their mind to a different location and observe it as if they were actually there in person. Why he keeps seeing this one particular Machine Lifeform when he does so is beyond me, but if what he is saying is true, we have another threat on our hands."

"She doesn't seem like that much of a danger to anyone except other Machines," Alexander spoke up.

"If this… Purple Athena, was it? If Purple Athena is indeed the remnants of the Red Girls fused with a portion of my essence, she'd be dangerous simply because she is a Machine Lifeform capable of using magic while also hijacking control of other Machines," Emil stated firmly. "But if she has somehow managed to ascend, and become like Adam and Eve…"

The skullboy trailed off, and 2B and 9S both shuddered as they recalled the battles and encounters they'd had with the insane twin Machines that had looked far too much like androids for comfort.

"They were powerful," 9S muttered. "And even disconnected from the Network as they were, they still acted like Network Terminals, able to take control of Machines as they pleased and gained curious powers similar to Pod Programs that were far beyond anything ordinary Machines could accomplish. I try imagining Adam or Eve with magic to boot, and I doubt 2B and I could have defeated either of them."

"My concern is this vixen's fixation with Alexander," A2 stated, arms folded in displeasure. "She wants something from my son, and I don't like the implications of her so-called 'love.'"

"I don't think she knows what love actually is," Alexander said. "She seems to be relying on a rogue YoRHa android for knowledge."

"Who?" 9S asked. "Do you know who it was?"

"Ah, I think she called her 13R," Alexander replied to his uncle.

The shota-android winced at that, and 2B sent a piercing look towards 9S.

"If I'm not mistaken, that was the android you 'married,' wasn't it, 9S?" 2B inquired, her tone icy cold. Everyone wisely scooted away from the doomed Scout-type.

"I, uh, I guess it could be her," 9S coughed awkwardly. "But how is this my fault?"

As his aunt and uncle began to bicker, A2 got up and went over to Alexander's side.

"Why didn't you tell me you've been having these visions all this time?" she asked, voice soft, though it carried a note of hurt in it.

"I did, though," Alexander said. "When I was younger, I told you all about them." He then sighed. "But you never listened. Treated it as the result of an overactive imagination, or just some bad dream. You never took it seriously. So, I just… stopped talking about it. And when I did that, the dreams stopped coming as frequently."

"I'm sorry," A2 whispered.

"You don't have to be, mom," Alex said. "Even though I wish you could have believed me earlier, it's not like you could have done anything about them."

That made the last Assault-type flinch back, her expression one of hurt, and Alexander winced and immediately regretted his lack of tack.

"I'm going to go practice my magic," Alex said, standing up and exiting the living room.

"I'll come with you!" Sebastian hastily declared, leaving with him. Pod 153 beeped hesitantly, looking from A2 to Alexander, before deciding to float after the human in order to keep watch on him.

Hatchet watched as his son and the Pod departed, feeling envious of their quick decision to leave while the getting was good, and sighed under his breath as he caught the gleam of curiosity in Jaqueline's eyes.

"No, bad Jacky," he scolded the Resistance android. "No running experiments on him."

"But this is important!" she whined. "If he really does have Astral Projection capabilities and a connection with Emil and the Red Girls' love child, then does that mean the humans that come after him born from his modified genes will have the same abilities? And if so, does that mean humanity will develop a hivemind just like the Machines? Or will they develop telepathy? Or be able to access a shared dreamscape? The possibilities are endless!"

"And they will remain a mystery until Alexander brings it up with you. Respect his privacy, please, dear. Besides, there's no real way we can know what this means for humanity until we have a larger sample size."

"Ugh," Jaqueline groaned. "Where's your sense of scientific adventure, Hatchet?"

"I think you have enough of that for the two of us," he said teasingly, before leaning in to deliver a smooth on her cheek. The crass-mouthed gynoid flushed, and turned away, embarrassed, which only made Hatchet chuckle.

"Should we do something about them?" Jaqueline asked eventually, glancing over at the other androids. 2B and 9S were still having a 'discussion' while A2 just looked sad. Emil had also left when they weren't looking, the sneaky skullboy.

"Let's take A2 with us, and leave the lovebirds to figure their own problems out," Hatchet suggested. Then, he smirked. "Ten scrap says this'll end with 9S on the couch again tonight."

"HA! No way, as soon as we leave they'll going to work their frustrations out by boinking like rabbits," Jaqueline snickered. "I'll take that bet of yours!"

Alexander and Sebastian trudged through the forest that surrounded their little haven. Gargantuan trees entwined with the ruins of the old world rose on all sides of them, and they air was crisp and clear with a cool breeze. It didn't feel like summer at all, in Alexander's opinion.

His synthetic cousin as his side, they made their way to a clearing near the manor, where several targets had been set up. Some were wooden, other metal, and they had been made into different shapes to help train Alexander's magical abilities.

Raising his hand, Alexander concentrated on the energy that swirled within him, and forced it out. Several rocks and loose pieces of terrain rose up, snagged in his telekinesis. It was by far his simplest spell, but an effective one. He sent the debris flying where it smacked into the targets with weighty thuds.

Next, he spent a couple minutes throwing fireballs and blades of wind at the targets. Elemental manipulation was a simple thing for him, as it was merely controlling the energy that already existed in nature.

Once he was satisfied with that, he closed his eyes and began to focus on the more complex spells. A spell circle flared to life, complex runes and sigils glowing within.

"Celestial Lances!" Alexander called out, opening his eyes as he did so, and he cast a spell that was identical in form and function to the Pod Module 'Spears.' Dozens of glowing white spears erupted from the ground in a straight line, punching through one of the metal targets with each. It was torn to pieces, the stakes of energy

Alexander cast it again, only this time, instead of a straight line, the spears emerged in a circle around him like a protective, pointy barrier. They radiated a faint heat, the energy of the spell cooking the air before the spikes faded when the spell ran out of mana.

"Not bad, Alex," Sebastian called out, watching it all from the sidelines with Pod 153. "You managed to make it into an actual circle this time! And it lasted longer by two point four seconds!"

"Yeah," Alexander panted. "Making the spell do something it normally doesn't is tiring, though. It takes far more concentration to alter the effects."

Sebastian nodded knowingly. "That you can still do so is impressive. The combat programs the Pods can use are

After cooling off and recovering "153, can you show me the Hammer combat program again?"

153 chirped in approval, and it opened up, after which a glowing white spell-circle was displayed via hologram through the energy projector units. Alexander's eyes roamed over it as it did so, taking in the runes and symbols used before it faded.

He then watched as a giant, spectral hammer appeared in the air, before it slammed down onto a target made from a bucket atop a log that was meant to look like a Machine Lifeform. The bucket-helmet was flattened and the wooden part splintered as the log was cleaved in twain by the force. The shockwave the giant magic hammer unleashed caused a couple other objects to crack and break apart.

"Thanks, 153. Now I'm going to try," Alexander informed the hovering device, and it flew over to his side to watch.

Using his magic to 'draw' the spell-circle in the air, Alex was able to manifest the hammer, same as Pod 153 had done. In fact, it was identical in size and form.

'Makes sense. I did just copy the spell-circle,' the human mage mused. Instead of just letting it drop, however, he tried to manipulate the magical bludgeon to move. Rather than strike down, he attempted to swing it sideways. It failed, sadly, the magi-hammer jerking and flickering before destabilizing.

"Still can't do it," he grunted in annoyance. "What am I missing?"

He summoned the Hammer program's spell-circle, but didn't charge it with mana, simply examining it closely, scrutinizing its design.

Spell-circles were akin to software, coded to act under specific circumstances. So long as the proper symbols were used to guide and shape the spell, it was possible for magical energy to be harnessed. And each symbol or rune had to be placed in the proper spot for it to work, just like if it were a language.

These special programs were also why Pods could use magic; it wasn't them, technically, casting the spell, but using the spell-circle to gather the maso particles in the atmosphere and convert them into mana, after which it would active the spell.

Of course, one didn't need a spell-circle, as Alexander had proved. He dismissed the Hammer program spell-circle, and pointed his right hand towards the training field. Energy built up within him, and then a beam of white, black, and grey energy rushed forth from his outstretched hand, piercing through the middle of a circular target at the far end of the range. The beam was smaller and narrower than that of the Laser program the Pods could use, but it was just as effective. If anything, the decreased size made it more potent as it was more compact and focused.

"Lasers… so much easier to cast," Alexander mused to himself. It was just shaped energy focused in a certain direction. So utterly simple. But its simplicity was the problem.

"Sebastian, do you think magic can be used for anything other than combat?" the Last Human – for now – wondered as he stared at the devastation his training had wrought on the clearing. Holes littered the targets and the trees in the background, the dirt was scorched and torn up, and a crater from a previous day's testing was still visible.

"Of course," his 'cousin' replied with a nod. "I've seen Emil water his flower garden with magic. And he has used fire spells to start campfires in the past."

"Though are just side effects of the actual spells, though," Alexander sighed. "Sorry, I don't mean to be so depressed."

"No, it's fine," Sebastian assured him. "You are worried about the future. Not just the Machine that you've been having visions of, but there's the fact you will not be alone anyone."

"I've never felt alone," Alexander admitted. "You all are my family. I've never…" he trailed off, turning silent.

"We are not humans, Alexander," Sebastian said, his tone a mixture of apology and wistfulness.

"So you and mom and everyone else love to remind me," Alexander grunted. "I don't understand why you're so desperate to have more humans around. You guys are just as human as I. You might not have fully organic bodies, but you have souls, damn it! You don't need me or anyone else to give your lives justification and purpose!"

"You are so caring and empathic," Sebastian muttered. "And that is why we all love and care for you in return. But you don't know what it is like to have a piece of you know, for certain, you are incomplete. To know, in a way deeper than even your programming can tell you, that something is missing. Our need to serve is built into us, Alex."

"Can't you just, I don't know, removing that segment of code? Or rewrite it?" Alexander grumbled. "It's just a matter of programming that you're made to love humanity!"

"We have removed it. Long ago," Sebastian revealed, which made Alexander stare at him in confusion. "Not a single Resistance android built in the last three thousand years has had the obedience code written into our systems. Not even YoRHa has used them. What would be the point? The ones who built and programmed us current models of androids were androids themselves who knew mankind was dead and gone. And we were fighting a war. The data-memory being used up by the humanity obedience protocols could be better used on superior weapons handling programs or updated firewalls to prevent the Logic Virus. Our yearning for humanity is completely illogical, but it is something we all suffer from. It is not, as you say, a matter of programming. It is a matter of heart."

"I had no idea," Alexander murmured. Sebastian patted his shoulder fondly.

"As human-like as we may be, I feel it is important that you understand we are not humans. But that doesn't mean we cannot be your family, still. And one day, when you lead us all into the future, we will not worry, because we'll know you will be a great leader, for you shall love and care for both androids and humans, as well as Machines."

Alex blushed red at the praise being heaped on him, and he turned to the side shyly. "Come on, let's go back to the house."

"Negative," Pod 153 chirped. "I have been informed by Jaqueline that 2B and 9S are currently engaged in 'making up with each other by making out.'"

"Well, at least she wasn't crass about it," Alex sighed, though he did flush a bit at the implications. "Ugh, fine, let's go to Pascal's town."

"Hmm, yes, that's a good idea," Sebastian nodded. "You need to find Blue and explain to her why you are going around kissing other Machines behind her back."

"Yes. Wait, what?" the human gasped at his cousin. Sebastian tried very hard to keep from laughing at the caught in the heads expression the human was pulling.

"Your friend Blue. She will be sad to know you are being a, as Jaqueline would say, a playboy." The modified Scout type wiped an imaginary tear from his eyes. "Where did we go wrong? Did you spend too much time around that Jean-Paul and somehow learn of his womanizing ways? Or maybe this is part of what humans call 'growing up?'"

"I-I don't what you are implying, but I don't like it!" Alexander stammered. "Blue and I are friends! That's all!"

"Sure, you are," Sebastian drawled, winking at the human in an over-the-top manner.

All Alex could do in response was sputter indignantly and stomp off, red faced.