Hey everyone! My pa treon now has access to my live documents! Feel free to check it out in my bio (fanfiction. net) or my signature (SB and QQ) if you'd like.

Big ups to euphoricimage and Hect for helping me out with the chapter!

X

The room most frequently used as our dining area was somehow the most dreadful place in the world to me at that moment. With there only being three people here including myself and little to no furniture beyond a table and a sideboard at the entrance, the excess space gave the illusion that I was less trapped than I was.

"Never do that again."

"Yes, Ma'am."

"I can't believe you had the gall. The audacity. Leaving in the middle of our meeting? You understand why that simply isn't something to be done, don't you?"

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Putting aside how disrespectful that is towards me, your direct superior, you've also disrespected a Clock Tower Lord by inviting him here to conduct business, then leaving to do… whatever it was that you decided you wanted to do."

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Honestly, were I a more punitive woman, your punishment would be much more severe than what I have planned for you. I should–"

I pretty much tuned Barthomeloi out entirely at that point.

I stifled what would have inevitably come out as a long and drawn-out sigh and turned my head to the woman strapped by a projected chain to the chair next to mine. To be completely honest, it was a bit annoying that she was the persona non grata here and yet I was the one getting chewed out.

I stared at Edelfelt flatly. She could only stare back confusedly.

You understand, don't you? This should be you right now. Sure, I did a bad thing, but there is no arguing that what you were trying to do is much, much worse. If Barthomeloi didn't have a terminal case of one-track magus brain, we'd be interrogating you properly right now. Don't think for a second that you'll get out of this scot-free.

"Emiya. Are you listening?"

I froze.

"...Yes."

Barthomeloi put a hand on her hip. Her tired eyes narrowed.

"Oh? Is that so? What did I just say, then?"

Well, I didn't know, obviously. I could only make something up and hope that I was right.

"Something or other about having me hanged, drawn and quartered–"

"Stop talking before you dig yourself into an even deeper hole, Emiya."

"Yes, Ma'am."

She exhaled sharply through her nose, rolled her eyes, then motioned for me to get up. I suppressed my smile knowing that I'd be pushing my luck if it slipped out.

I stood tall next to Barthomeloi, crossed my arms and then glared down at Edelfelt coolly as if the last five or so minutes of our lives hadn't been wasted in the way that they had been.

"I'll start with the obvious question," I said evenly. "You're a magus, and a combat specialist at that. Why were you following me?"

There was probably an easily inferable answer to be found here, but making assumptions could only lead to bad things. I'd much rather hear it from her directly.

As expected, she pursed her lips and averted her eyes. Of course it wouldn't be that straightforward.

Barthomeloi's face tightened.

I shivered. I felt a cold chill run down my spine, and from the looks of it, so did Edelfelt. The girl must've gotten the worst of it, even.

She cracked instantly. Were I any less aware of Barthomeloi's social standing versus my own, I would have felt a little self-conscious about how easy the woman made it seem.

"I won't say," the blonde reaffirmed.

"..."

Or maybe not.

Barthomeloi didn't care much for that reaffirmation. I could practically feel her getting irritated, and it wouldn't do us any good to have an irritated Barthomeloi in the room while we were pretending that we could be patient and methodical about something.

It was my move, then.

I stood over Edelfelt and grimaced. The girl immediately averted her gaze once I drew too close.

"Look," I started in an exasperated tone of voice, "It's been a long day and none of us want to be doing this right now– least of all me. We'll get what we want out of you eventually, but it's up to you whether you want that to happen now or after the hypnosis."

This snooty girl's first instinct was to scoff at me. As her head was the only part of her body that could still move, she whipped it right back my way. Arrogance oozed from every pore on her face.

"Such spells will not work on me, Emiya. Do not take me for a third-rate."

Hah…What time was it? I really wanted to go to bed right now and forget about all of this.

Barthomeloi's anger with me was far from forgotten, and I'd still have to contact Rin and El-Melloi in the morning to figure out how much shit I landed myself in because I didn't know how to say no to Gramps.

It wasn't difficult to get a good idea of the sort of person Luviajelo… Luddu… Luvi… Edelfelt made herself out to be. A typical young, inexperienced rich girl birthed from the womb of magus high society. It was by far my least favourite type of person to deal with because their way of thinking was so far out from the realm of normalcy that trying to reason with someone like this was like trying to convince a fish to go on a walk. I knew from experience that I'd only succeed in infuriating myself.

I leaned forward and grabbed the frame of the chair that we strapped her to. My grip was tight enough that the wooden frame creaked right next to her ear. She froze right up.

I didn't know what sort of face I was making. I could only think of cursing this useless person a hundred times over and hope that some of what I felt shone through.

"Good lord you're bothersome."

Her face slowly reddened and her breath quickened.

"U-uah..!"

The high-pitched sound that came out of her mouth was a strange one. Before I could examine her any further, Barthomeloi grabbed me by the shoulder and pulled me back.

"Think a little of yourself, girl," Barthomeloi muttered icily. "You are an Edelfelt, isn't that right? A well-off mercenary family, but a mercenary family nonetheless. Do not think me daft; it's a given that House Fraga hired you lot to do whatever this is. If you have any aspirations of a fruitful career, do not make an enemy of the one who lords over the rules of your institutions."

Hoh… that seemed to have driven the point home.

Edelfelt had her head turned away from us, but at last, she spoke.

"I wasn't following you, Emiya. I was tailing the leader of the Fujimura group."

That wasn't something that I was expecting to hear. Or wanted to.

"Why?" I asked right away. "He's not a magus. Hell, he probably doesn't know anything about the world beyond what a normal guy like him sees and interacts with every day."

Edelfelt scoffed.

"'Normal guy'? In what manner is he normal? He's a gang leader."

I didn't appreciate her trying to twist my words.

"You know what I meant."

Her head still turned, the girl allowed her eyes to track to the side and give me an annoyed look.

"Yes, I do. He is, however, a gang leader nonetheless. All happenings within Fuyuki, Japan are strictly monitored by his people… or so I'm told. There would be no opportunity for me to get to Lady Barthomeloi unless I found a way through him first."

Said Barthomeloi let out a discontented hum. For her, it might as well have been a beastly growl.

"You insinuate that I wouldn't be able to keep a commoner's nose out of my own business?"

That's the part you're hung up on? And don't act like you were being even remotely secretive about any of this!

I stepped forward and tossed in my two cents before the conversation could be given a chance to derail.

"Then you admit that the Fraga put out a hit on Barthomeloi, if not me."

"No!" she denied right away. Fervently, even. "I'm not crazy, and neither is my family. We wouldn't accept a job that risks getting us on the bad side of the entire Mage's Association!"

"You tried to attack me when we ran into each other," I countered.

Her face became so red upon revisiting that memory that it practically glowed.

"That's different! Fujimura had been planning that trip to the sumo match for a while, but all my sources indicated that he would be going alone! You showing up was unaccounted for!"

…Wait. What was that about the old man originally planning to go to the match on his own?

I shook my head. Never mind that for now.

"So you were going to kill me."

"Of course not! It was a binding spell. A binding spell!"

I sighed. I allowed myself to drag it out a little bit more than I should have. Perhaps goading her wasn't the right move, but…

"Not only are your plans all over the place, but you got yourself captured by your target right away. You're not very good at this, are you?"

She sputtered then dropped her head meekly.

"This is my first time, so…"

Hah? Your first job? Why admit that!? Why would your family even send a newbie for something like this?

Barthomeloi gently placed a hand on my shoulder, silently telling me that she wanted me to back off.

I did.

"State your intentions clearly, Edelfelt," she ordered calmly. "This coy back-and-forth between you and my peon isn't going anywhere. You jumped through quite a few hoops to get to me, and I'm inclined to believe that you're able to understand that trying to take my life without any assistance is a fool's endeavour.

Did you just call me a–

"I am to force Lady Barthomeloi out of Fuyuki city. She cannot encounter Trhvmn Ortenrosse under any circumstances lest the Mage's Association as a whole suffer the consequences."

While I was sent reeling by that curveball, Barthomeloi somehow managed to jump right back and scrounge up some sort of righteous anger.

"You– no. The Association has no say on the matter. There is nothing you can do to convince me that trying to save Vice Director Barthomeloi is the wrong thing to do. You do not have the power, nor do you have the ability."

…I didn't need to know Barthomeloi as well as I did to know that she wasn't taking this too well. I'd almost wager that she'd be less pissed if Edelfelt had just come out and said that she wanted the woman's head on the end of a pike.

"That's right, it would be suicide to confront you with magecraft," Edelfelt admitted easily enough. "It was my intention to take advantage of the assets of someone like Mister Fujimura and have you leave of your own volition."

It was clear to me that Barthomeloi was unimpressed, but it might– no. If it were basically anyone other than Barthomeloi herself, that plan might actually have worked.

I had thought that Edelfelt's intention with the old man was to shut him down and keep his eyes off our encounter, but it was the opposite. It wouldn't have been too difficult for her to pull off either, seeing as how the old man wouldn't have any resistance against any sort of magecraft-born psychological manipulation.

Seaports, customs, law enforcement… old man Fujimura had his paws deep in all of that stuff. How much of that could Barthomeloi really curb if she couldn't act out without risking revealing the existence of magecraft on an uncontrollable scale?

I had underestimated Edelfelt, if only partly. It was a losing battle on her part regardless, but if there was even a sliver of a chance that she could pull this off, the way she went about it was probably the wisest.

"..."

I could've sworn that I felt a draft pass me by; I chalked it up to a figment of my imagination and ignored it in favour of keeping tabs on the two before me.

Barthomeloi and Edelfelt stared at each other impassively.

Or rather, Barthomeloi stared at Edelfelt impassively. Edelfelt tried to keep a straight face –to preserve some semblance of pride, most likely– but it wasn't an easy thing to do when this woman was looking at her like that.

As I tried to come up with some way to break the tension, a thought came to me.

"You mentioned a strange name before. The person that Barthomeloi can't meet under any circumstances."

It was Barthomeloi who answered. She didn't look away from the girl as she did so.

"Trhvmn Ortenrosse. It's the name of the dead apostle who cursed my grandfather."

Ah.

"And why does Fraga care so much about my affairs with that dead apostle?" the woman asked the blonde. "Is this some measure to prevent me from returning my grandfather to good health?"

Edelfelt did a poor job of seeming unaffected by those words, but she managed to string an answer together nonetheless. Good for her.

"The Fraga wouldn't care less about that, Ma'am. In fact, they…" she trailed off, hesitating with her next words at the tip of her tongue. "They don't think you'll be successful at all."

Barthomeloi's glare became absolutely glacial, but to her credit, she didn't let her temper get the best of her.

"Oh? Is that so. Then, what?"

For a moment, I didn't think that Edelfelt was going to answer. The face she was making made her look constipated.

"...My family could only get the Fraga to explain as much. We know that Ortenrosse wants the bluebloods to come to him, though. He's supposedly planning something terrible that somehow relates to your bloodline and the Fraga think that you hunting him down would be akin to presenting yourself to him on a silver platter. That cannot come to be."

Bluebloods. That was a nickname that I knew Barthomeloi's family held, but I had never cared enough to figure out why they were called that to begin with.

Now it seems as though it was a little more important than I thought. I was almost positive that the significance was explained to me at some point, too.

"Yes, well, I am already here."

It was a man's voice.

For a moment, it felt like my heart had stopped beating.

The interrogation was forgotten. Both Barthomeloi and Edelfelt were looking at something behind me.

Slowly, I turned my head.

A man was at the entrance. He was sitting on one of the two wooden chairs that I'd brought in from the shed: the one that I was sitting on just a minute ago.

Somehow, it had been moved from right in front of me without me noticing.

Even though he wasn't standing, it was obvious that he was tall. Freakishly so. Most of his body was obscured by a long, black cloak, and my view of his face was blocked in part by the tall, popped collar of his coat that circled his head. Still, I could make out long dark hair tied in a bun, the sharp bone structure, and the pointed ears that didn't look quite human.

There was something at his feet. A bundle of cloth. Was that–

"You," Barthomeloi whispered. Her eyes were wide as saucers. This was the most stricken face that she'd ever made in front of me, maybe. "Ortenrosse."

It took a moment for the name to register. My head turned to her, then back to him. He was content to keep sitting there impassively.

Oh, dear.

My nose twitched; Barthomeloi's magical circuits were humming. I sensed that she was about to do something remarkably stupid so I acted quickly and wrapped my arms around her tightly, securing her arms in place.

"Unhand me, you–"

She struggled mightily, but I didn't let it phase me. In a contest of physical strength alone, I wouldn't lose to her. I didn't let my eyes stray from that dead apostle either.

He still wasn't moving, which meant that he wasn't here to start a fight right away. I didn't know how long that would last, but Barthomeloi throwing her spells around was a surefire way to expedite things in the wrong direction.

Without looking, I released the projection that was stopping Edelfelt from moving.

"I–"

"Stay alert," I told her before she could get a word in. We more or less got what we wanted from her and I doubted that her intentions were nefarious beyond mildly inconveniencing me at this point. I didn't hate her enough to want to see her die, so at least now that she was free, she had a snowball's chance to protect herself if the dead apostle made his move.

Unfortunately for her, I couldn't say whether this guy would let her leave despite the fact that she didn't really have anything to do with us. She seemingly felt the same way since she decided to stand beside us awkwardly instead of running away.

The dead apostle moved, and I twitched. I felt Barthomeloi tense in my arms.

It was all for nothing, though. He was just adjusting his posture. He lifted one leg and crossed it over the other, leaning back to get into a more comfortable position.

"There is no reason to be so uptight. The evening can end with a discussion instead of conflict."

My brows furrowed. How I pictured him as a result of Barthomeloi and Edelfelt's words differed greatly from how he was presenting himself to us now. He was incredibly mild-mannered.

I spoke before Barthomeloi could ruin everything. I could practically feel what she wanted to say.

"And how can we make that happen?"

"A trade," he answered simply. "Give me the blueblood girl and I'll give you this."

He kicked the bundle on the ground.

I kept my face blank.

"Not a chance."

I shot him down curtly.

Tough luck. There was no way in hell that–

The bundle rolled over. My eyes widened. Was that…

It was Gray. El-Melloi's assistant. She was passed out on the ground.

What the hell? What was she doing here? Why did this dead apostle have her? Where was El-Melloi?

The dead apostle sighed.

"Bother. I'll take her by force, then. Men of a certain class loathe taking matters into their own hands like this, just so you know."

Leysritt and Sella appeared.

The shorter-haired homunculus dropped her halberd on the man. At the same time, Sella rushed to our side and cast a concealment spell on us.

I thought they had gone to bed, but in retrospect, it was silly to think that they would leave us to our own devices so easily regardless of how affable they liked to pretend to be. If there was potentially someone dangerous in our house, they would take it upon themselves to stick around until there was proof that the threat of danger was manageable.

Now that an entirely different and very real danger has presented itself, they were quick to make their move.

Sella frowned.

"Lady Barthomeloi, Lady Edelfelt, Peon–"

"You heard that, did you?"

"–follow me. Leysritt will hold that man off, but there's no way to tell how long she'll be able to keep him busy."

Lamentably, the answer to the question "How long can Leysritt keep him busy?" was "Not very long at all."

I didn't see anything more than a flick of the dead apostle's wrist. Leysritt was sent flying like a cannonball; she crashed right through the relatively thin walls of the house.

"Shit– damn it!" I cursed, then immediately cursed again as Barthomeloi took advantage of my momentary distraction and freed herself. She beelined toward the thing that was trying to capture her.

You idiot! What spell do you think you're going to use indoors!?

A gale force wind smashed into the dead apostle, but his robes didn't so much as flutter. What she did accomplish was making half the room explode. Were things any less dire, I'd yell at her for ruining my house.

Barthomeloi wasn't in her right mind right now. I couldn't say that I empathized, but I certainly sympathized with her.

This was all coming at me way too fast. One second we were having a relatively civil discussion with a wayward magus, the next we were trying not to die as the object of our interests randomly showed up in my kitchen. I thought we had time. Barthomeloi certainly made it seem that way.

I didn't have the luxury to complain about this for any longer.

Slowly, though he wasn't within reach still, the dead apostle lifted his hand as if to grab Barthomeloi's face.

A projectile shot out from behind me. The man appeared as though he were about to slap it out of the way, but he thought better of it and jerked to the side before it could hit him.

The jewel exploded in a flash of light. It seemed to have been more of a distractive measure than anything.

"Outside!" Sella shouted. Everyone, Barthomeloi included, saw the sense in leaving an enclosed space. More than that, however, I didn't know where Illya and Sakura were right now, nor did I have the luxury of taking the time to find out. They surely hadn't slept through the commotion, but I didn't want to risk damaging the house while they could potentially get themselves stuck under a collapsed roof.

"Thanks, Edelfelt," I said, patting the girl on the shoulder gratefully. She slapped my hand away almost immediately.

"D-don't mistake my throwing you a bone for camaraderie! Our fates– er… our livelihoods– our odds of survival are currently tied to one another, so–"

"Yeah, whatever," I cut her off flatly. She made some sort of frustrated noise, but I was more concerned with the dead apostle slowly walking our way.

He was totally unhurried. He wasn't at all worried about facing Barthomeloi, Edelfelt and I straight on, let alone Sella and Leysritt. That would usually be a sign of arrogance, but with someone with a reputation like that one…

I didn't like this at all.

"I'm sorry, Emiya. The house won't survive," Barthomeloi informed me. As set in her ways as ever, she marched forward, ready to face her opponent head-on a second time.

I wouldn't be opposed to you trying a little harder to avoid that outcome. Be more mindful of other people's stuff, please.

As much as I didn't want it to be so, however, trying to stop this woman when she was dead set on something was a wasted effort. I could only shadow her and do my best to keep her safe.

"Windræ."

I gulped.

No. No way you just–

I wasn't even in the way of the attack. I was behind her and I was still knocked onto my ass. The wind spell slammed into the dead apostle with all of the precision of a natural disaster.

"You hot-headed– Sakura and Illya are still in the house!" I screamed at her, my hands covering my ears. She had tuned me out entirely.

Damn it!

There was practically nothing left of the house. If it weren't for the bounded fields that Sella helped me put up, the destruction would have extended far past my property alone.

My heart dropped. If something happened to Illya and Sakura because she couldn't get her head out of her own ass for once in her damn life, I wouldn't forgive her.

I wasn't given the chance to dwell on that for too long; the dead apostle made his move.

My eyes sharpened.

Even then, it was almost impossible for me to keep track of. Most heroic spirits, enhanced parameters and all, couldn't move so fast that they were nothing more than a blur to me.

And yet, here we were.

I am the bone of my sword.

Fighting him hand-to-hand wasn't going to happen.

I traced a near-literal ton of swords, altered them to maximize their velocity, and tried my best to stick the bastard with at least a few of them. None of them even grazed him, and he began closing the gap between us at a frightening pace.

"Cyrf."

Barthomeloi tried to pellet the man herself, but even she couldn't do much. This man's mobility was frankly a little ridiculous.

Edelfelt tried to do her part too. What I suspected was an altered gandr fired out repeatedly; Sella wasn't the best in a fight, but I knew she was casting spells to accelerate all of our projectiles.

What an utter mess.

Swords, wind blasts, whatever the hell Edelfelt was doing… none of it mattered. For the scant few seconds that it took Ortenrosse to get from the tattered house to within arm's reach of Barthomeloi, we were made out to be incompetent fools with the aim of a mole rat.

Barthomeloi gnashed her teeth and erected a barrier around her. It slowed Ortenrosse down long enough for Edelfelt and me to launch another set of attacks at him.

He stopped moving. The attacks hit.

For a moment, I was naive enough to hold my breath, but no. He was just proving a point.

That point being that we couldn't do anything to him.

His hand went through the forcefield. His every movement was painfully exaggerated.

Barthomeloi growled. She clenched her fists so tightly that blood trickled down her palms.

The power being pushed through her spell was borderline immeasurable. It was inhuman.

And yet…

The dead apostle's hand drew closer. Though Barthomeloi's increased output made the limb tremble and falter, the man's face was as cool as ever and the gap between them continued to close.

I didn't know something like this was possible until just now. One on one, Lorelei Barthomeloi was completely and utterly outmatched.

Her spell was starting to give. I couldn't let things happen like this.

"Edelfelt. Get back."

She seemed like she wanted to say something, but she started putting distance between us instead once I started putting my circuits to work.

Sella stood behind me and placed her hand on my back. I felt her od trying to influence mine and I let it.

Her efforts to maximize the efficiency of my energy consumption were appreciated, and while I doubted that I would have the opportunity to do this twice, I'd take what I could get.

I traced my black bow and began forming a warped drill-like arrow in my free hand. It was pretty much the strongest Noble Phantasm that I could make reliably, and while I couldn't say that we wouldn't get caught in the explosion, I couldn't say that my target wouldn't. At least there was that; it was the best I could come up with.

As if teasing me, the dead apostle turned his head and looked me dead in the eye as I nocked the weapon. Right as Barthomeloi's barrier wore off–

Something white scooped Barthomeloi off her feet and set her down a few paces away. The movement stilled and I made out the figure of my foolish boss' saviour.

I allowed the projections to disperse and grinned.

"Nice going, Leysritt."

She was crouched on one knee. As strong as she was, she had no difficulty holding both Illya and Sakura underarm. The two girls hung onto the woman for their dear lives, though both had determined expressions on their faces.

I'm glad you two are okay.

Barthomeloi was visibly trying to come to terms with what had just transpired. Down on all fours, her gaze was downcast and her hands were gripping the dirt beneath her tightly.

Ortenrosse still had his hand outstretched before him for a moment longer before he dropped it lazily.

"...All this running around is so uncouth," he lamented. "You understand the gap that exists between us, don't you? The more you struggle, the more apparent that gap becomes, Blueblood. Save yourself the embarrassment and come along quietly. I care little for the rest of you, so you'll be free to carry on with your lives once I'm done."

Normally I'd think something along the lines of "That was the wrong thing to say" as it did a spectacular job of angering Barthomeloi beyond belief, but considering that the dead apostle was playing with us, maybe infuriating her was the point.

She opened her mouth but wasn't given a chance to retort. Illya's magical circuits sizzled to life on her skin. Sakura gave me a quick nod and I understood what was about to happen instantly.

"Shirou! Sella! Don't you dare die!"

Ortenrosse realized it himself a moment too late. In what was the closest thing to a change of expression that I'd seen from him to this point, the man's eyes widened.

In the blink of an eye, Illya, Sakura, Leysritt and Barthomeloi had disappeared.

An ingenious spell to get an individual from point A to point B: Touko Travel. Not quite teleportation, but it could still get the job done, kind of. Invented, named and patented by the woman herself. The very same woman who was about to be the unexpected and unwilling anchor for that "point B".

We were able to keep Barthomeloi away from this guy. For now at least.

The relief that I might have felt was immediately washed away by the dead apostle's sigh. I quickly remembered that Barthomeloi not being here did not mean that we were out of the woods yet.

Perpetually austere as he was, I could make out some hot anger in his tone when he spoke next.

"I'm impressed, in a way. I didn't think that the blueblood would be able to escape me after I went through the trouble of luring her here, but I was proven wrong. Congratulations."

What? Damn it! So Barthomeloi was baited into thinking this whole thing was her idea? That foolish–

"But I digress. I'll extend the proverbial olive branch one last time."

His arm was raised. An unconscious Gray was somehow being held up by the back of her hood. Her body dangled uselessly.

"Bring the blueblood to me and I'll give this one to you."

As bad as this situation was, I still managed to be distracted by Gray's unhooded features.

Saber.

This was Saber, right? No matter how you sliced it, this was definitely Saber.

If we were both alive by the end of this, I'd have a few words ready for El-Meloi. This needed an explanation.

Neither Sella nor Edelfelt spoke while I was lost in my little world. The three of us remained silent and the dead apostle's offer was left ignored.

"...No? I figured this one would be of some value considering… ah, you might not know, then. I hadn't thought of that. My apologies. A different bargain, then."

"Shirou!" I heard Sella scream. I could've sworn that Edelfelt said something too.

I felt cold. I couldn't move.

"Wha–"

The dead apostle was at my back. With his one free arm, he grabbed me in such a way that I couldn't so much as twitch a finger.

Unbelievable.

He was toying with us this whole time. A "fight"? What a joke. He barely lifted a finger, let alone made an effort to go on the offensive. Even now, moving as casually as he was, he could pull me under his arm as if I were nothing more than a stray animal that he found on the side of a street.

I didn't have enough mobility to see what I was doing, but I traced weapons. As many as I could. I tried to shoot them at the man behind me, but while I heard something, the grip didn't budge.

"Ah… that reaction is much better," said Ortenrosse. "Give me the blueblood and I'll give you this boy."

My heartbeat quickened.

Did I just get turned into a bargaining chip?

I craned my head to look at where I knew Sella and Edelfelt were standing. Sella's complexion was as white as her hair. She was no fighter; she knew that she couldn't do much here. Edelfelt looked stressed too. Understandably, it was likely that she was worried about whether she'd be able to get herself out of this one tonight.

I took a deep breath. My lungs were being constricted, so I had to do my best to be heard.

If Illya and Sakura felt comfortable leaving us here, then they were probably expecting me to do that. It was only Sella and Edelfelt around; there wouldn't be too many issues. I wouldn't consider it a surefire plan by any means –not to the extent that Sakura and Illya probably believed it to be, at least– but we'd all live if I could get this off without a hitch.

"It's a no-deal!" I told them. "I should be able to keep this guy distracted long enough for you two to–"

"I take it one of you knows where the blueblood is?" the apostle asked, interrupting me. He didn't wait for an answer. "I think so. Don't worry, I know it's been a stressful night. Take a moment, think about it, then get back to me. I'll be staying at… that abandoned castle so conveniently placed at the edge of town in the meanwhile. Come find me there with the one I want."

In an instant, everything in front of me vanished.