There was an old clan known as the Yggdmillenia, a gathering of unorthodox magi that steered away from traditional magus views of inheritance and blood. Rather than focus on strengthening their history and bloodline potential, they took in all magi with any relation to them. This gave them a broad range of study to pas down, but it mattered little.

Tch. It was nothing more than a loose alliance of the weak and dying. It was no wonder their family was dissolved in wake of the timeline of the Third Holy Grail War.

However, remnants of the family still existed after the breaking, one of which had been attacked by an apostle, and turned.

Victor Yggdmillenia was the name, and the bastard practiced a particularly annoying craft before he'd forgone his human status.

Lorelei grimaced while surveying the inner area of the castle in front of her. Crouching, she traced her finger around the anchor point of what was clearly a bounded field and hummed. Based on the school of thought, the characteristics of the bounded field could be inferred and deactivated, but it could take a tedious amount of time.

Would it be better to just break it?

Mulling over the idea, she had to weigh the pros and cons. Breaking it would lessen the duration of this hunt by a large margin, but at the same time, it would immediately give them away. If Victory was as slippery as a wet fish, then the frog would certainly flee from her again. It was why the team had yet to actively kill the corpses and ghouls lying around or caged. Doing so would immediately alert the master, and it would only be worth it if the master is apprehended. She would not settle for meager gains when the true delicacy was hiding just before her.

Somehow, she had to force a confrontation. That, or just get him within her sights. There would be no escape from there on.

Nodding to herself, Lorelei stood back on her feet and soon decided on a course of action.

Stepping into the bounded field was the same as alerting the master anyway, so then that would mean something on the likes of another game of cat and mouse.

She was abhorrently tired of the charade.

"Ma'am?"

Lorelei turned towards her elite unit with an impassive gaze. "I want it surrounded. Nothing gets in or out unless I say so. Do not trip the bounded field before a perimeter is set."

"Understood." Her guard saluted, and moved according to her will.

All that remained was Shirou and Nanoha whom Lorelei was still deciding what she should do with. Considering her brief interaction with Zelretch, Lorelei scrutinized Shirou further, wondering what about him deserved her attention?

He didn't seem all that remarkable, and there was no way Lorelei didn't pass judgement on his almost air-headed to the point of ignorant assistant, Nanoha.

Hmm. What to do?

"Emiya," she called out testily, expectations at the lowest. "Your thoughts? You have three chances."

Shirou seemed puzzled at Lorelei's initiative towards him, but at the same time, the weight of her gaze felt pressuring. He took in a slow breath, and shifted his mood to match the gravity of the situation. Lorelei was currently his ally to hunt down a dead apostle who's actions of involving ordinary humans in research had already crossed his bottom line.

"I can deactivate the bounded field," he propositioned.

"Oh," Lorelei's brow rose in faint surprise, but it wasn't that easy. "How would you stop detection then? The moment the bounded field halts its function, the user will know through their connection through it."

"Flatten everything before he can react?"

"Haha," Lorelei chuckled at the optimism. If it was as easy as flattening the castle, why would she need any of her team or Shirou and Nanoha, at all? "Two more tries."

Two more tries until she'd dismiss him and the ridiculous proposition of the Wizard Marshal.

"What if we can locate the target before crossing the bounded field, and then apprehend him immediately?" This time Shirou tried a different angle.

Lorelei had already considered this approach herself, which was why she had an appropriate response. "Can you do it?"

"Yes," he answered.

She thought so. Something she couldn't do wasn't something that- "Excuse me?"

Lorelei narrowed her eyes, her shoulders tensing as she clenched her jaw. This better not be some sort of joke. If the target could be found and located within her sight, she'd be able to handle the rest.

If this was a lie, she'd make Shirou rue the choice of failing a Barthomeloi's expectation.

"-If it's just finding the person responsible for all this, I can do it too," Nanoha chipped in, her tone thick with barely concealed restraint.

Both Lorelei and Shirou glanced at Nanoha in all seriousness, but Nanoha didn't even bother feeling the pressure of their stares.

Everything Nanoha had seen and experienced so far were just too much for her to harbor even a smidgen of mercy or compassion. This was a sentient monster that thought little of human life. It was no wonder her world's magic organization went to great lengths to hunt these dead apostles down!

Even if it wasn't for the sake of reconnaissance, she would help put an end to this out of her own obligation as a member of her home world.

Under Lorelei's watching eyes, and Shirou's humming, Nanoha get to work. She didn't know much about the terms Lorelei and Shirou had mentioned, but it was quite clear that this bounded domain acted like some sort of security system. If the line were crossed, it would go off or something along those lines.

Well, it wouldn't matter. She didn't plan to just locate the target anyway.

Nanoha placed Raising Heart on the side, and pressed her hands to the ground, one palm over the other.

"Area Search," She invoked. A sphere of light magic emitted through her hands, which she then pressed her palms over. Raising Heart quickly emitted several rays of arcing light that spanned across the entire castle. Hitting objects, psionic pulses of magic frequency radio waves scanned the entire structure top to bottom. She ignored all the readings regarding those with weaker magic signature and focused only on the strongest one.

Lorelei grimaced immediately as the light directly entered the zone of the bounded field, ripples forming in the air. Nanoha had just alerted the enemy that they were-

"The enemy is due west and tinkering deep underground,"

Lorelei cut of heat tirade and immediately focused. "You really found him?"

More than that, Nanoha offered a tad more. "I'll open a way."

Keeping their silence, Shirou and Lorelei watched Nanoha quickly deploy Raising Heart.

'Setting parameters.'

A mechanical voice only Nanoha could hear echoed in her ears as Raising Heart's structure began to shift into a compact canon form.

Lorelei had seen many mystic codes, but not one that had been fashioned to resemble a modern firearm or canon. Most Magi including herself somewhat detested the design.

'Activating assisted aim settings.'

Magic energy pooled around Nanoha in the form of rotating sigils. Raising Heart's tip protruded out into a supported barrel frame. Over Nanoha's right eye, a screen of magic energy formed an advanced lens.

'Adjusting for the predicted route of bombardment.'

A target reticule appeared, a series of calculation taking output, strength, and distance into account to make an appropriate estimation.

'Energy diffusion, controlled.'

Steam wafted out from behind Nanoha from compressing magic energy funneling into the tip of her weapon. The gathered energy formed a swirling ball encompassed by a pink magic circle.

'Target lock.'

Her finger applied pressure to Raising Heart's firing mechanism and pulled.

"Barrel shot!"

The magic circle around the ball of energy shattered in an explosion that propelled all the gathered magic energy forward. From a small point, it rapidly expanded into a funnelling cone shape.

A tunnel of destruction was directly drilled into the castle, and then continued deep into its basement where the stunned figure of a pale skinned man leaning over a work table appeared on the other end.

The target lay before them.

Lorelei glanced at Nanoha, then to Shirou and hummed thoughtfully. It was no wonder Shirou would keep an assistant like Nanoha around. Accurate scrying or locating spells were always boons when hunting down targets, and Nanoha had also demonstrated an ability to defend herself.

Lorelei still considered Nanoha as rather ignorant and an air head for a magus, but at least she proved capable.

"Wait here, and make sure no enemy variables arrive to interfere." Lorelei grinned as Victor's figure locked itself within her view.

She did not need anyone's help as she stormed forward under literal gales of visible wind.

"This bastard's mine."

It was the declaration of the Queen.


Often, triggering the mechanism of a bounded domain came with various consequences. If Nanoha had been patient enough to collaborate with Shirou to deactivate the barrier while searching for the target simultaneously, the situation wouldn't have been as bothersome. But Nanoha digressed.

It wasn't fully her fault.

Both Shirou and Nanoha were limited in their world views, each knowing quite little of the others magic systems and abilities, and neither able to freely share them. Shirou had Rin and Zelretch pressing on his back, while Nanoha was constantly monitored by the TSAB through her coms. Neither side would give freebies to the other easily unless it was calculated. Hence, why Nanoha didn't even consider factoring Shirou's aid before she'd acted. It was instead more of a show of her abilities and the TSAB.

With the bounded field triggered and penetrated by Nanoha's barrel shot, their location was compromised. There was a reason Lorelei instructed them to defend because this was where all the enemies were going to congregate. If Shirou had been the one to deactivate the barrier, the enemies would not have known the location, just that the enemy was nearby.

Well, there was no time to digress.

"Divine Shooter," Nanoha activated one of her most convenient yet efficient spells.

Several glowing spheres hovered around her, each emitting arc of magic charged electricity that once concentrated, could fire out in barrier penetrating bursts. Several shot out at once when walking corpses threatened to encircle the group's flank. The plasma-like light pierced holes through the bodies at first, but Nanoha was soon forced to focus on the heads.

She gnashed her teeth while Shirou with a black bow in hand helped her snipe down targets.

Lorelei's elite made up the bulk of the defence. Every single one strict to adhere to Lorelei's instructions, and warning Shirou and Nanoha not to interfere with their coordination. It was why they got stuck with sniping roles, not that Nanoha was going to complain.

Wind whipped her bangs behind her ears at every shot she fired, the recoil cracking the ground beneath her. If this was an ordinary weapon, bullet shells would have been ejecting from Raising Heart with each blast, but in this case, it was more akin to a water gun attached to a hose endlessly pulling the trigger.

She and Shirou utterly decimated the ghouls and corpses flocking towards the group, while Lorelei's elite dealt with the more specialized variants.

"Dammit." The leader of the elites cursed. "Nightmare classes."

Seen through Nanoha's scope was an enemy that didn't seem any different from the ones she'd been shooting at, but intelligence was clear in its eyes.

Several classifications exist to determine the threat and rank of a Dead Apostles kin. Staring from a lowly corpse at the lowest, and Ancestor at the highest, a Nightmare class was in the transition stage between a Nightkin and Dead Apostle (Inferior). These Nightmare ranked servants of high ranked Dead Apostles are granted special powers derived from their sires through the curse of the blood running through their veins. They are on the level of a High-Rank Knight that can hold its own against numerous Executers.

Seeing as the Nightmare-Class enemies were still a distance away and moving independently as separate groups, Nanoha leveled her sights on one before it could cause any havoc.

However, Shirou placed a hand on Nanoha's shoulder and shook his head.

Different from before, Shirou was being mindful of his craft.

Tracing wasn't something he could blatantly use in front of other Magi he didn't trust, and the prior instance with Nanoha was due to extenuating circumstances. The repercussions of revealing his capabilities to Lorelei's people of the Tower's Aristocratic Faction were things he'd rather avoid. He also had his Reality Marble, but that was even more of a taboo. This just wasn't the time.

He glanced at Nanoha who'd already shot several concentrated bolts of magic energy from the spheres surrounding her at the Nightmare class apostles. She hadn't been convinced when Shirou had tried to dissuade her silently, so it was clear now that it was better to be more direct and talk it through.

Shirou shook his head at Nanoha.

"That won't work," he said even as he and Nanoha watched concentrated bullets of light explode the heads of the Nightmare class nearest to them. The blood and bits of gore were instantly vaporized, leaving nothing but smoking trails from forcibly cauterized wounds.

Nanoha raised a disgruntled brow at the display. "What do you mean? I'm hitting them, and they're clearly dying."

Shirou didn't bother arguing. "All you're doing is stalling." He said, pointing a finger out at the apostles Nanoha had shot. "Watch."

Rather than fall, the headless bodies continued moving before something odd occurred. The air seemed to blip as if static had just passed through, and then in a blink of an eye, the heads were all back.

"…" Nanoha didn't know what sort of expression she was making, but right now she was beginning to understand that her home world truly had its own dangers.

"Most sources of attack to their body will not kill them as they possess some degree of their master's regenerative ability to return to a point in time where they weren't damaged." Shirou began listing some of the most tedious aspects of stronger classed dead apostles. "Pure power will not work unless you obliterate everything, and even then, it's not guaranteed."

"That's absurd." Nanoha lowered her aim for a moment in disbelief.

"Ever heard of a conceptual based weapon?" Shirou continued on, firing all the while as Lorelei's elites got into specific hunting formations.

"Maybe?" Nanoha answered disgruntledly.

Shirou took the answer as a no, or largely ignorant.

"You see the weapons our allies are using? Those are Black Keys. They stop the regenerative abilities of the undead. Enabling them to be killed more efficiently."

So because she didn't have one of those Black Keys, she was useless? Is that what he was trying to say? How could she accept that?

"Are you implying I just leave it to them? All magic runs on principle and a set of calculations derived from complex theory. Like you said, I'm sure that if I just adjust the output of my attacks, I could obliterate the whole body at once."

Shirou turned to look at Nanoha, seeing that she as being earnest. She wanted to help, and her intentions were truly there, but one also had to consider reality. "I doubt you have the reserves to fire at full blast against that many enemies. It's also better to conserve energy in case of unexpected situations. Moreover, what if they dodge?"

"I have aim bot," Nanoha spoke as if she had something to be proud of.

Midchilda's magic tech reduced the probability of a miss to a near zero by tracking and calculating the enemy's known movements and flow of magic.

"Concepts, remember?" Shirou grunted with mixed feelings. Against a normal magus, Nanoha's means would prove beyond tedious, but this wasn't against ordinary magi. "Your weapon does not carry the concept to exterminate evil or subdue the undead like Black Keys do. You can have all the energy you want in an attack; it means nothing if its ineffective. Moreover, do you remember what Lorelei briefed about our current target's craft?"

Nanoha thought about it, but didn't quite understand it the way everyone else did. Regardless, she always did have good memory.

"Proliferation, right?"

Shirou nodded. "To win, we can't just focus on what's in front of us."

In life, Victor's craft was likely nothing dangerous aside from a useful method of escape. It was unfortunate that it did no good against an apostle. An apostle's bite infected more than just flesh and blood, but the soul as well. One may split themselves an innumerable number of times, but only a single soul will continue to exist. The moment the first bite was delivered, the outcome was already decided.

It was no wonder Lorelei would be annoyed though. So long as any piece of Victor or his kin remained, a new Victor could emerge by the next day give or take a few months. For the sake of preventing Victor from fleeing, the priority was Victor himself, but have no doubts. This entire place was probably going to be torched and everything within, slaughtered.

If Victor was smart, he would have had a contingency of blood banks hidden around the world in the case of his death, and this indeed was the case. Lorelei and her execute force had been eliminating them one by one, and tracking the rest through blood-related scrying spells. Shirou's most recent case struck Victor's last blood reserve, meaning that this tedious hunt would finally end here.

There was no doubt about why Lorelei had been so pleased with him.

"You're just telling me to do nothing!" Nanoha couldn't contain her frustration. It would be a blatant lie to say she didn't feel anything after seeing the atrocities committed here to her own people.

"No." Shirou said, trying to get her to focus. He smiled wryly at her when his efforts only riled her further. Fine. He'd just be blunt. "I'm telling you to work with me."

"Oh," Nanoha let out a soft exclamation. Her breath hitched in doubt a second later.

"Pass me your weapon." Shirou stretched his hand out for Raising Heart.

"Why?" Nanoha asked defensively trying to read Shirou's intentions.

Raising Heart was her personal weapon, and was equipped with the latest magic tech personalized for her use. More importantly, if she gave it away, it would be the same as clipping her own fangs.

It wasn't easy for even the weapon tuner and forger to put it together, let alone understand it inner mechanics.

"I'll give it a temporary concept."

Huh?

He'll what?

Did she hear that right?


Sorry for delays, I got sick while writing this and still aren't feeling all that well