Concepts imbue objects with abstract clauses or notions that dictate an effect different from that which was apparent. A sword that cuts is no different from a knife that carves meat, peels vegetable skins, or extracts flesh from the sinew of bone. The action of cutting is a physical reality of a sharp edge tearing through the bonds of matter that comprise an intended quarry. Anyone could do this given the appropriate strength and timing, but a concept is something beyond that. It may or may not have any correlation to cutting itself, but rather, something as arbitrary as self-regulation. A sword that would automatically clean and sharpen itself is rudimentarily useful, but self-regulation is not restricted solely to a knife or sword.
The point was that concepts encompass an overarching purpose.
That which subdues evil, 'Anti-Evil' is the antithesis of that which is evil in nature and energy. Even a candle stick with this concept would show certain effectiveness in warding away ghosts or spirits. This was to say, that which did not possess the appropriate concept would not be able to ward away such specters. Undead Apostles and their undead were no different.
It was one thing to physically cull them, but the energies that comprise their existence would remain unaffected, allowing them to heal from even the most grievous of injuries. This was why every single member of the Church and Enforcer units wield Mystic Codes and weapons imbued with 'Anti-Evil.'
Nanoha's Raising Heart and her own brand of magic didn't possess the concept that would counter the enemies before her. There was a chance that if she exploded an undead, the pieces left splattered may reform into an enemy that could catch everyone off guard from the back.
That was why Shirou offered his aid.
It was better to work together than guard each other over every single thing.
Saving others mattered more. On this, Shirou and Nanoha would agree.
"Here, let me see your weapon for a moment," Shirou coaxed. He'd already told Nanoha his intentions.
Nanoha hesitated, glancing from Shirou, then to Raising Heart, then back. She knew better than most regarding her own weapons specifications and maintenance costs. Her own weapon tuner would chew her out if she dared let anyone unqualified mess with Raising Heart's inner workings.
"F-Fine." In the end, she relented, wincing when Shirou took Raising Heart from her. "Be careful with that! That part's delicate!"
Nanoha nervously pursed her lips when Shirou moved his grip towards the floating orb at the end of her staff. He paused, if only briefly, and stared at her.
"I know what I'm doing."
D-Did he just roll his eyes at her? Nanoha choked back a growing tirade. Annoying as it was, Shirou seemed to know exactly how to handle Raising Heart as if he was the one who made it. He was careful when handling the central prism, and took note not to place his hands over the magic arrays that comprised Raising Heart's central mainframe. That flash of interface patterns that spread across Raising Heart the moment Shirou contacted it was a suspicious point, but not something that could hold much weight in Nanoha's ignorance…
Watching Shirou with the eyes of a hawk, Nanoha kept her thoughts to herself when Shirou created a sword from out of nowhere. The sword was imbued with the sigils of crosses and text, the most prevalent of which was the cloth used as a tasset on the hilt. She still wasn't quite clear how Shirou created the sword, but the ramification that this was likely how he could create so many Lost Logia was not lost on her.
Taking the sword he'd created, Nanoha watched as Shirou pressed the steel against the shaft of her staff, and then muttered some sort of incantation beneath his breath. Instantly, the sword she'd just been staring at rippled and became viscous, as if melted down in a forg-
"Ah," a gasp of panic escaped Nanoha's mouth as the liquid-like sword then began to coat over her weapon before solidifying in place. She could imagine all kinds of malfunctions and errors this could cause to Raising Heart's functions!
As quickly as she saw Shirou act, she was quicker, snatching her weapon back and looking at it over like a protective mother.
Shirou placatingly raised his hands when Nanoha rounded on him, but his explanation did much in the way of deflating Nanoha's outburst.
"I've modified the auxiliary with a simple Anti-Evil concept." Shirou said, pointing out the new addition on Raising Heart, namely, the tasset of the weapon that was still largely visible. "You see that white cloth grafted to the side? That's part of a holy sacrament. Don't damage it or you lose the concept of 'Holy.'"
And 'Holy' should be able to combat 'Undead,' Nanoha summed up in her mind, but that wasn't the point.
"D-Did you just melt a sword into my weapon?" She accused, double checking Raising Heart to make sure all functions were green.
"Alteration." Shirou made a face. Hell would freeze over before he of all people would ever adversely affect a weapon's function. "Nothing more."
"Like Alchemy?" Nanoha recalled her fantasy-like notions of what her world's magic could be like derived from her own understanding of her world's mythos.
"A similar field," Shirou wasn't one to delve into the technical aspect of craft when his knowledge was no better than a third-rate's.
In any case, Nanoha was having a field day. Still, it really wasn't the time to marvel over the differences of the magic she knew, and the ones of her home world. Not when monsters that could endanger innocent lives were at risk of potentially breaking out.
Recent memories of a city infested with undead and the people who were killed, came to mind.
Not again. Something like that shouldn't be allowed to happen under any circumstance.
Nanoha knew the TSAB would likely want her to sit back and observe her world's magic capabilities, but the whole point of allowing Shirou to imbue a concept in her weapon was for her to act.
The orbs of magic energy floating around Nanoha began to pulse and thrum as she channeled her energy into Raising Heart.
"There's no problem if I fire now?" A holographic target reticule hovered over Nanoha's eyes, presenting a marked screen that highlighted all she deemed hostile.
Shirou grunted. "Fire away."
Beams of concentrated magic energy erupted forth from each of Nanoha's floating orbs. Arcing, they systematically carpet bombed the undead and twisted in ways that prevents any chance of a miss.
'Aimbot,' Nanoha had called it.
It was no exaggeration.
Shirou for his part may be able to do the same with Traced swords, but even he could admit that he was not augmented with magic technology that could assess the status of all enemies. Quietly, he reassessed the level of threat the TSAB may pose by using Nanoha as reference.
Hers was a mix of magic and science, something like what may be found in the Wandering Sea, or the Atlas Temple. It was hard to say for certain as both institutes were secretive.
It was hard to say how a battle between both sides would fair without fully understanding the scope of the TSAB's operations, but one thing was certain.
War was a zero-sum game.
For now, Shirou decided that he'd focus first on the hunt with the current Dead Apostle, and then think about the repercussions of diplomacy and politics later. Rin could act as a type of diplomat, but he certainly was not.
It just wasn't his field.
One by one, Nanoha peppered every single undead that filled the area with holes, many of which no longer healed, allowing them to be finished off with another shot, or through the mysteries of Lorelei's elite brigade members. Many of which silently glanced in Nanoha's direction, but said nothing more despite the aid.
Lorelei was the leader of the Clock Tower's Aristocratic Faction, meaning that few if any of those of her faction were easy to impress let alone deign to give praise to those of lesser station.
Grunting, Nanoha reloaded her spells and retargeted another group of enemies, dealing with them in bursts that never seemed to end. Her means were both methodic and efficient, but Shirou knew that holding their position here would not lead to victory.
Lorelei's brigade were elites. Even without Nanoha or Shirou, they would be able to execute Lorelei's prerogatives.
-A bang echoed out in the earthen cavern, followed by a frustrated grunt.
Shirou glanced in the direction Lorelei had left towards. Rumors of her strength and capability were all that he'd known about her, but what he'd experienced for himself was the power of an Apostle. They could never be taken lightly.
Experience trumps second-hand knowledge.
Moreover, he always was more on the impulsive side, and if he analyzed Lorelei right, there was something he could do to help.
Since he was hunting a Dead Apostle with Lorelei, then he'd be more comfortable to guarantee that the Dead Apostle died here. Too many were responsible for undead breakouts in cities and towns.
Waiting for Nanoha to fire off her next round of her magic, he tapped her on the shoulder and gestured for her to stay while he left. Defeating Victor would end everything.
Nanoha refused when it was clear he was going to follow Lorelei. Of course, she did.
"I don't think these guys will let us go." Nanoha shook her head while glancing at Lorelei's brigade.
"Don't worry," Shirou wasn't concerned. "They'll be busy."
His eyes could see several more waves of enemies drawing in towards their position. Lorelei's brigade would focus more on carrying out Lorelei's instruction to hold their position from the undead than to prioritize their absence.
When Shirou and Nanoha departed, none of Lorelei's brigade stopped them. Instead, many of them looked at the two as if they were dead men walking.
None knew Lorelei's temperament and means better than her own brigade.
As for Shirou and Nanoha…it was their funeral.
The nobility of blood stems towards the nobility of one's action. Bravery and courage could be lauded and praised, but cowardice deserved nothing less than scorn.
"Where will you run now?" Lorelei narrowed her eyes, magic energy flaring around her as she walked at her leisure.
Gales of wind buffeted the way forward, creating a cage that swept through the interior of the path Nanoha had carved into a hollow cavity beneath the old Yggdmillennia estate. Was it sentiment that Victor would occupy such a place, or was it due to the layline directly beneath it that allowed for a decent workshop?
Regardless, Lorelei would allow no room for error.
She had been chasing Victor for too long already, and the endeavor had shifted from an exhilarating hunt into a tedious chore. It was hard to say why she was chasing him so vehemently anymore other than personal vindication and his penchant for human experimentation on a large scale. But, both were equally motivating, one due to her own pride, and the other for the secrecy of the moonlit world.
Lorelei grunted when a spell circle flared beneath her feet, exploding on contact and briefly illuminating the area in blinding light.
"Nothing but petty tricks," She sneered, a wind barrier shielding her from all harm.
Not only did Lorelei encapsulate the basics of all magecraft pushed to their utmost limits, but she embodied the concept of 'Almighty,' in all that she was. The pressure of her presence alone was daunting, an anomaly that could rival even the True Ancestors themselves- what's more a mere magus turned bloodsucker?
A fleeting figure came within view, and immediately it was hounded by an unseen force that pressed it to its knees.
Raising her riding crop, Lorelei flicked it down, and the figure splattered into paste smeared over the ground. A second later, and even that paste was burnt to ashes from an onset of magic force dispersing the pooling blood, and preventing it from coagulating and reforming.
Proliferation was a tedious trait. Unless she annihilated everything, she couldn't discount the possibility of her enemy's escape.
She flicked her riding crop again, and this time the ground was rend asunder, uprooting numerous other figures hidden in the dimness of the underground cavern.
"Light," she muttered before a sphere of magic energy soared into the dark, illuminating her enemies.
Golems and skeletons?
Another flick of her riding crop and the distractions were torn apart by magic energy using the principle of counter force applied through aerodynamic theory. Bones were torn from the joints, and the rock of the golems was ground down until the core of their constructs were shattered.
Nothing that moved remained in front of Lorelei. She wasn't experienced in the field of big-game hunting, but she did understand the principle of power. If it wasn't working, then you just weren't using enough of it.
"Ager, set." Lorelei muttered in latin script, focusing her eyes on an empty space within the cavern and using that location as a medium. "Compound, then expand. Pondus value, null ager."
A black dot formed, creating a gravity well that pressured the entire space. Cracked bones, loose rock, and debris were suctioned in and then systematically crushed within the designated void.
It was only then that her true target revealed himself out of desperation.
Victor Yggdmillennia was old with graying hair and a wrinkled face that did little to hide the ambition still alight within his eyes. He'd hidden himself within the core of one of the golems, having left out a spare bloodbag that he'd hoped would redirect some of Lorelei's attention. Unfortunately, it was killed in an instant. Lorelei had learned from her last encounter.
Grunting, Victor pulled out a walking cane, and then pointed it at the black dot Lorelei had cast. No sooner, a bounded field enclosed over the dot, and then contained it within.
Lorelei let Victor disable her attack, pleased enough that she'd drawn the rat out.
"Lorelei…" Victor grimaced, but Lorelei refused to exchange words and immediately continued her assault.
Balling her gauntlet into a fist, she grabbed a sphere of magic energy and crushed it within her palms. The mithril gauntlet shuddered before vibrations of reverberating energy rippled outward. She punched the ground then seven spires appeared and formed a circle, erecting a domain in the area.
Victor reacted instantly, recognizing the gravity of being caught here. His body split into parts, forming into new bodies that possessed their own autonomy. Each tried to disrupt the sigils activating on each respective pillar, but Lorelei was nothing if not efficient in her knowledge.
How do you deal with a coward with too many means to flee?
You force them to remain.
"Algiz, Nauthiz, Ansuz, Inguz," Lorelei invoked the oath of the Ford of the forked branch.
The ritual of death match.
The challenger must fight with his all, and the challenger may not refuse.
Only one may exit the domain.
The space was formed, caging her prey along with her in a mystic boundary illuminated in pulsating magic light. As soon as the magic was invoked, Victor stopped all struggle. He had been a magus before he was converted into an Apostle, so he understood the futility of resisting after this curse was cast.
"Now, I will allow your last words," Lorelei spoke up for the first time, certain that her long hunt would finally reach its conclusion. Thus was the disparity between both sides that when a tigress was trapped with a rat, the outcome was firmly set.
Victor took in a breath, and then faced Lorelei openly.
"Have I not escaped you twice already?" He opened with a jab.
"There will not be a third." Lorelei was unphased, and was in no hurry anymore. That subtly changed when she failed to see the panic or urgency she anticipated Victor would have at being trapped with her.
Lorelei's mind began processing, meticulously trying to determine if there was something that she'd missed, but was coming up short every time.
"Truly?" Victor was goading now. "...Or maybe I've just discovered something more interesting than this game of cat and mouse?"
She was sure that the bastard was just trying to make her overthink, but her intuition was telling her otherwise. If she killed him here, how would she find him again supposing that another of his clones or kin lived?
The bastard must have been bluffing though. She would have been able to sense the foul ilk of a Dead Apostle's energy, especially his as she'd memorized his specific magic signature. Maybe he was alluding to something else then…a variable?
This was the only conclusion Lorelei could come to. Perhaps Victor had sensed something that she hadn't, and it was a variable that would give this snake-like apostle the chance to escape?
Lorelei was not pleased. A vein popped over her temples as there indeed seemed to be a new variable interfering.
Rounding on the interloper immediately, her magic energy flared, increasing the pressure of the entire area around her. Her riding crop flicked up, ready to deliver hell to the pest that dared intrude.
Her eyes locked onto a head of red hair, then to the figure, and then to the girl who also followed along before recognition flashed into her mind.
Him? Shirou Emiya?
She was offended that he dared interfere in her hunt, but that thought momentarily took a back seat. The thing about variables was that they could go either way.
Perhaps Victor had been betting on a chance created by said variable's interference, but what if that variable tipped in Lorelei's favour instead?
"Catch!" Shirou threw an item at Lorelei.
Lorelei hummed, catching the item mid flight and hovering it in front of her eyes for inspection.
She actually paused when she glanced over it before an uncharacteristic light of astonishment glinted in her features.
Hmm? Hoo? ...
She carefully took the item into her hands and inwardly marveled. It was another Mithril Gauntlet? However, it was fashioned for her left hand instead of her right, making it a set. Did it have the same function as her original or was this merely just appearance?
From the feel of it, and the familiarity in which she could run her magic energy through it as a conduit, it meant it was genuine.
How intriguing. How did he do it?
Few would know that Lorelei's gauntlet itself was melted down from the mithril of a sacred sword, granting it its holy properties, or that its origins dated back to the user of the First Magic. Meaning that its very production method was lost.
Lorelei thought back to that dastardly Wizard Marshal.
A variable had come indeed, but one that eliminated all chances of escape rather than provide it.
Suddenly, Zelretch's prior proposal didn't seem as displeasing as before.
Interference or not she felt…pleased.
"Shirou Emiya," Lorelei mouthed the name with mounting curiosity, a charming smile making its way over her face while staring at him from the corner of her eye. Her expression was elegant and beautiful, the following words veiled in clipped thorns, not so much. "I will rescind you and your partner's execution."
"W-What?" Beads of sweat suddenly formed on Shirou's brow while Nanoha looked stifled at the reception.
An explanation? Fine, Lorelei could indulge this. Think of it as a whim now that all her thoughts of Victor escaping were rendered obsolete.
Lorelei raised a questioning brow at Shirou, now ignoring Victor entirely.
"Surely you didn't think anyone who took my words lightly would go unpunished? This was my battle. My instructions were to hold the undead back, and only that." She frowned, but it seemed more in jest as the edges of her mouth wouldn't stop creeping up. "However, you've put me in a good mood, enough to skirt around a death sentence, but not enough to ignore punishment. You will await my decision at the end of this. Is that clear?"
Lorelei didn't bother to wait for a response she knew could only be 'Yes!'
Instead, her attention returned to Victor who'd grown silent. Ah, he must have realized the futility of his resistance.
Lorelei equipped the second mithril gauntlet onto her free hand, pausing in what could only be delight as she did so. She coughed, trying to downplay her reaction. "This…is better than I expected. It's almost difficult to tell the other apart," she mused.
Finally, Lorelei did a few tests, and when they all went and exceeded her expectations, she was noticeably more amiable.
"You have done this Queen a service," Lorelei gave Shirou compliments where they were due before hardening her expression at Victor. "Therefore, it's only fitting that I reveal the results of your contribution. Now then, there's a bug that needs to be crushed."
Victor's complexion darkened, anger making him bare his teeth. "What right lets you decide that, you bitch!"
Magic energy erupted around Lorelei, channeling through both mithril gauntlets she now wore. Wind began to pick up, as arcs of magic energy scorched the ground beneath her feet, distorting space itself as she released the Almighty attribute in full. The gauntlets were amplifiers that worked in tandem with her family's magic circuits.
"Because I am Lorelei Barthomeloi, Queen of the Blue Bloods and Supreme Mage of the Present Era.
Nanoha stood taken aback in shock from fierce buffeting gales. She raised an arm to shield her face from floating dust and debris as Lorelei moved to put an end to her long hunt.
"You are a coward among the Apostles. You who has no pride to remain firm even against a 'lower being.'"
Victor activated a spell, but it wasn't even able to actualize its mystery before the attack fizzled out, a physical distortion centered on the spell shattering it in an instant.
"H-How?" Victor staggered back.
The answer was simple.
"Magic raised to the highest degree, makes it unnecessary for the use of special abilities."
Lorelei was a walking example of the basics of magecraft that reached the pinnacle in all fields.
"Your continued existence displeases me."
Lorelei stepped forward, the ground cratering from the pressure generated from her single step.
"Your actions are but a credence to an inevitable end."
Victor was forced onto his hands and knees before the sound of his bones snapping had him sprawled flat and groaning in agony. The closer Lorelei drew, the greater the pressure increased.
"And your prolonged evasion of my judgment deserves no quarter."
Lorelei was now right in front of Victor, imperiously staring down at him in contempt. She raised her leg, and then placed her heel into the small of Victor's back.
"Writhe like a worm and die."
She pressed down, and the body was flattened out of existence.
It was an overwhelming display but for some reason, Lorelei could not stop this nagging feeling of uncertainty.
Thanks for reading!
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