Chapter 13: Puppeteers
"We are getting closer to the base." The soldier reported to the military base while he and the rest of the assault forces approached the subterranean lab. The night offered them a dark cloak that covered their operations. "We await your orders, Admiral."
"Did you make sure to close off any path leading to the lab?" The Admiral responded from the command center.
"Yes, the streets leading to the entrance were blocked by the local police, and the subway line was closed with the excuse of monthly maintenance, sir."
"What about the prototypes? Any sign of rebellion?"
"Negative, they have been docile so far." The soldier assured. "They don't move before we do, just like you ordered, and they have been silent all the way here."
The Admiral knew it, and it was a gamble sending the prototypes without doing further tests. Even O'Dyne was unsure how they may react. The experiment should have worked, interrupting their gestation period before they could fully develop a sense of self should have erased any traces of free-will. Still, it was a rudimentary and untested method, a product of the little time they have.
In other words, they couldn't know when they may start disobeying orders; the new prototypes were a two-edged sword.
"Regardless, stay alert."
But it had to be done; they had to attack before them. They already had killed Commander Haydes. It was just a matter of time until they tried to overthrow him.
He would never allow that.
"Always charging forward regardless of the consequences, aren't you, William?"
He felt like his heart stopped for a second as he heard something out of this world reaching his ears. It was a man's voice; it spoke directly to his ear, like a whisper.
Immediately, he searched for the source of that voice, but he found no one. His subordinates were all occupied preparing the assault, and no one was close enough to speak directly to his ear.
"You won't find me anywhere. After all, I died."
He immediately stood up, alerted.
"Who say that!?" He screamed. "Is that your idea of a joke!?"
Every pair of eyes in the command room suddenly went to him; nobody expected him to shout like that; they all looked as lost as the Admiral.
"Admiral? What's wrong?" One of his subordinates quickly approached him.
"Did not you hear it!?"
"Eh? Heard what, sir?"
"The vo… no, it's nothing" He stopped himself as he realized he sounded like a madman. "I am getting a terrible headache; I am going to ask for painkillers. Tell the assault force not to move until I am back."
With that, the Admiral abandoned the control room and headed towards the infirmary. He wasn't sure what had happened, to suddenly start hearing a voice on his head….was the lack of sleep finally taking its toll?
"Come on. You were always as healthy as a bull, William. You won't get crazy for going a few days without sleep."
His heart rate suddenly accelerated; there was no other person in the corridor but him. That voice clearly belonged to no one; it was all inside his head.
He changed his course and went to his office instead of the infirmary. Was he dreaming? Or maybe he had drunk too much without realizing it? Either way, he couldn't let his subordinates see him like that.
"Are you afraid that they think of you as a madman? But you are sane, and I can assure you that."
"Shut up, shut up, shut up." He whispered until arriving at his office. There, he slammed the door behind him and made sure to lock it.
"Finally alone." The voice sounded cheerful. "Want to talk now?"
"No…you are not real, I am just hearing things because I am tired…that's it..." The Admiral tried to convince himself.
"You know me, William, but that's beside the point. What's important is what I can do for you."
"What you can do for me…?"
"I am sure you can do your math, William. Two of those prototypes aren't going to win against five."
"That…that doesn't matter! Even if they can't, I'll just order them to blow the tunnels and bury them all alive!"
"Alongside the thirty-four humans that are still there? Do you think you will come unscratched after burying them alongside months of scientific research?"
"Someone has to do something!" He shouted, now really sounding like a madman, while bringing both hands to his head."Those damn bureaucrats in the government can't even clean their own shit! They are the ones who woke up those things, and still, they are far too happy to sit their asses off while we soldiers die out there!"
The Admiral wasn't exactly a compassionate man; he was drilled from the start of his military career that soldiers must protect their nation, even at the cost of their life.
However, he didn't want to order such a thing; those people in the labs were like him, like his subordinates, soldiers risking their lives for their nation. To bury those men alive… What kind of monster would he become if he just sacrificed the men serving under him? He was fighting to protect humanity, for god's sake!
However, that didn't change the fact that the prototypes must be destroyed….and sacrifices had to be made.
Maybe, in the end, he was the same as those politics he hated so much.
"Then what if I told you that there is a way to save those men?"
"And the best part is that wouldn't have to do anything. It's a win-win situation for you."
"Wha-? There is no such a thing….!"
"You just need to wait for the perfect moment."
"What does that mean…?"
"Admiral!" Suddenly, someone frantically knocked on his door. "Admiral, are you there? It's important!"
"Who?" He went to open the door, and the soldier behind it was so covered in sweat that it wouldn't be strange for him to have run around the entire base."What's going on, soldier?"
"Admiral! I am sorry, I went to the infirmary, but the doctor said you never arrived so…" He talked nervously.
"I asked what is going on." He repeated.
"Ah…yes, we have confirmed that a Siren fleet is currently heading towards the coasts of the River Thames."
"I am afraid so, sir. What should we do? Should we order the assault force to retreat?"
"This is your opportunity, William." The voice reached his mind once more.
"Think about what you know about the prototypes and their relationship with the Sirens…I am sure I don't need to spell it what you should do, right?"
He didn't. He understood that the prototypes and the Siren were enemies. Attacking while they are occupied with them would force the prototypes to split their forces. He was never in favor of the phrase `the enemy of my enemy is my friend´, but it wasn't like the thought of using the Sirens didn't occur to him.
However...could he trust that voice?
"It's up to you, William. Either you fight a losing battle from the start or fight one where you have a chance of winning, no matter how small it may be."
Maybe it was the adrenaline playing a trick on his mind, or perhaps he was starting to lose his mind, but at that moment, he felt as if the voice was really trying to help him. Or maybe it was because, from the very start, he felt as if he knew the owner of that voice.
"Order the soldiers to wait for now." He ordered.
"Yes, if Commander Marcia's reports were correct, then prototype 02 would send the other prototypes to fight the Sirens. When that happens, it will be the perfect time to attack." Without waiting for a response, he started walking back toward the commander center.
"Eh? Sir? With all due respect, isn't that a bit reckless? What if they ignore them?" The soldier quickly followed from behind.
"They won't, I am sure of it."
That was a lie; he couldn't be sure of what prototype 02 would do. However, this was his only chance of victory against them.
"Good choice." The voice approved. "You have come really far, haven't you?"
He didn't know if the voice in his head was a product of his decaying mind or if someone was out there trying to balance the scales in his favor. Either way, if there was a way to destroy the prototype without sacrificing the soldiers there, then he would take it at any cost.
He would protect humanity at any cost.
"What!? Your faction? Then why are they attacking us!?" I asked Warspite. My voice sounded agitated.
"I don't know! They used to be a bit aloof, but to attack their allies like this…." Even Warspite seemed confused. "It's the Admiral; he must have done something to them."
"The Admiral? What could-?" I was interrupted as the maid in front of me, now identified as Sirius, attacked. Lord Camelot easily blocked her slash.
Damn, I couldn't shift my focus off her for even a second.
"We'll figure out her motives later!"I pushed Sirius back, and then I shot a glance towards Warspite." Can I leave my back to you?"
"That's what I should be asking. Can you even fight her?" She sounded doubtful, and I couldn't blame her.
"Probably." I took a look at my bloody left arm; a small pool of blood was starting to form under it. It wasn't completely useless, but I couldn't exactly depend on its movement since it hurt like hell to even move it a bit. "At the very least, I can keep her occupied while you deal with the other one."
"…I have my reservations about your role here, Ritsuka Fujimaru, but I am willing to let you prove yourself." The knight met my eyes with determination." Don't disappoint me." Her eyes then went towards the other maid, Dido, ready to face her.
"Don't worry." I also put my eyes in the enemy maid. "She won't lay a finger on you as long as I breathe!"
And so the fight started again.
"What is…this?" Edinburgh asked as they approached something unexpected. They have been traversing River Thames for a while, the coast had long since disappeared from their view, and only azure waters surrounded them.
Only water, yes, aside from "that."
"Fog." Answered Sheffield as they looked at the thick and dense fog that extended in front of them as far as their eyes let them see. "The visibility is poor inside it. We should probably avoid it."
The maids tried to go around it, but no matter how much they move it to its sides, the wall of fog seemed interminable. It was so broad in length that going around it would probably take a long time, or at least more than they had until the Sirens reached the coast.
After about fifteen minutes, they stopped.
"Ahhh, this is endless!" Edinburgh groaned." It's like we haven't moved at all!"
"Wasn't this the point where we would encounter the enemy, Sheffield?" Asked Belfast.
"Yes, the enemy fleet should be close by; they must be traversing this fog now."
"Then maybe we should wait here until they leave the fog?" Edinburgh quickly proposed. "It's not that I am scared of entering it, but...the Sirens must have to leave it at some point, r-right?"
"I am inclined to agree." Belfast interceded. "This doesn't look like a natural phenomenon; it feels strange, almost like it's purposely blocking our path."
Belfast knew something wasn't right about the fog; she had no proof, but she felt that stepping into it would be a big mistake.
"That would pose some problems, though."
"I have been trying to contact the base a few times since the moment we reached this fog, to ask for directions and the estimate position of the Sirens, but none went through."
"Eh!?" Edinburg tried to establish the mental link with the Queen, but she didn't get any answer. "How could it be? It was working just fine when Warspite told us that she would go back!"
Belfast also tried to call the base, but she seemed incapable of doing so like the other two maids.
First, the fog was acting like a barrier to stop them. Now, their communications were being jammed. With each passing moment, Belfast became more and more convinced that they were getting into some sort of trap.
But what could she do? The Queen ordered her to face the Sirens. Could she order a retreat and go against her Queen's orders, knowing that it was a trap? Or should they continue into the unknown? It was a difficult decision.
That decision, however, was robbed of her.
"Won't you make your move already?" Suddenly a voice could be heard coming exactly from under them. They quickly looked beneath them, only to find a pair of golden eyes staring intensely at them, with a deranged expression. "I'm starting to get bored."
The maids quickly stepped back and readied their weapons. The Siren was submerged in the blue waters, but she was standing completely still as if the sea waves meant nothing to her.
Her body slowly ascended to the surface without difficulty. The Siren had long white air done in a ponytail and wore something resembling a school uniform and a pair of dark robotic-like boots.
"Here comes the one and only Purifier!" She shouted like an excited child as she made her entrance. "Miss me?"
The only answer she received was a bullet in the head, followed by a barrage of shots coming from Sheffield's pistols.
"Ah, come on!" She started dodging after the second bullet. "Is that how you received an old-?"
Not losing a single second, Belfast shot her canons where the Siren landed after dodging. Multiples pillars of water and smoke were raised as the rounds collided with the surface of the sea.
After the water became calm again, though, the Siren had disappeared.
"You really are fixed for not letting me talk." Like she had teleported, Purifier resurfaced from a completely different part of the sea. "Well, it doesn't matter; we'll have a LOT of time to talk in a minute." Purifier snapped her fingers.
And the fog started moving towards them.
"…! Back off!" Ordered Belfast.
"It's too late!" The fog quickly covered Purifier until it made her disappear inside it. "You entered our domains a long time ago!" The only thing that remained after the fog engulfed her was her voice.
"We are retreating; don't let that fog touch you!" Belfast issued her orders once again, and the three maids sailed to avoid the fog.
When Belfast turned around, she found the path they had come from now covered by the same white and thick fog. They were trapped entirely between the two walls of fog, and they were quickly closing on them.
She didn't have time to question how that had happened. Her mind immediately thought of a way to salvage the situation.
"Stay together! We'll be easy prey if we are alone!" The head maid quickly tried to grab the two others.
"Oh no." The disembodied voice of Purifier resounded on their ears again. "You won't."
From the water jumped a machine-like black creature. It resembled a hammerhead shark but a lot bigger. The creature nosed dived towards none other than Sheffield.
The serious maid managed to dodge the shark's attack, and the creature submerged itself in the water again. However, it continued chasing her, swimming with incredible velocity.
Sheffield did her best to shoot the shark while underwater, however, the fog had already reached her, and before she could react, she was caught by it.
"No!" Edinburgh tried to go towards her disappearing figure but was stopped by Belfast. "Bel!? What are you doing!? We need to-?"
"Together," Belfast answered thoughtfully, as she grabbed Edinburgh hand with force. "Don't separate from me, sister."
And so, they submerged themselves in the fog.
The world turned pure white as the mysterious fog engulfed Sheffield. She quickly tried to go back to where Belfast and Edinburg were, but she wasn't leaving the fog no matter how much she moved. Maybe she got her directions mixed up? She didn't know, everything looked the same.
She had to find a way out before…
"Sheeeeeffyyyyy." Sheffield could hear the Siren's voice in the distance.
Sheffield pointed her guns towards the voice's approximated source, but she couldn't see a thing.
"Sheeeffyyy" Purifier continued, her voice now came from the opposite direction. "Do you see me, Sheffy?"
Sheffield quickly moved her guns towards the new directions, but there was no one there, only fog.
"Am I there?" The voice moved again. "Here? Right here? What about, say... over there? No? Right here? No, I am here." The source of the voice kept moving, making it impossible for the maid to pinpoint her location. "Or maybe right behind you?" Purifier's voice now reached Sheffield's ear directly, like a whisper.
Sheffield immediately shot behind her, turned back, and continued shooting towards the fog.
But it was futile. Purifier wasn't there.
"Show yourself, Siren" Sheffield was getting tired of getting toyed with.
"Are you mad at me, Sheffy? But I just wanted to talk with you! I even created this situation so nobody could interrupt us!"
"I have nothing to talk with the likes of you."
"Are you sure? It's about our common friend, Ritsuka Fujimaru." Purifier declared with a smug tone. "I am sure you must be curious about him and his motives."
Sheffield was indeed curious. That man was still largely a mystery to them. However, she knew better than to trust a Siren.
"No answer? Well, it's not like you have any other choice but to listen to me." Purifier declared victoriously.
"…We'll see." Sheffield quickly sailed, trying to get away from Purifier's voice.
"Now you are trying to escape the fog? How stubborn. You won't find the exit without my help." The Siren kept mocking Sheffield. "Just listen to me, Sheffy! I swear this is some really juicy information about your dear Master!" Don't refuse my generosity!"
Sheffield ignored the Siren's words, not even bothering to answer her.
"Alright, guess you are not interested." Purifier pretended to lose interest in her. "Just don't come crying when your precious Queen becomes his toy."
"What did you say?"
"Oh? Interested now?" Purifier began to sound happy. "But she isn't the only one you should worry about; Belfast, Edinburgh, Warspite, you…all the Royal Navy are going to be kissing his feet soon enough.
"Even if he is our Master, he still has to answer to the Queen, like all of us." Sheffield declared.
It wasn't like she hadn't thought about Fujimaru betraying the Queen, but even if he did it, the Maid Corps would remain loyal to her; and Warspite wouldn't allow anything to happen to her either. No matter how strong he was as a human, he had no chance against all of them.
"Hahahahaha." Purifier laughed. "You don't really believe that, don't you? Or have you failed to notice how he is slowly inserting himself in your little faction? He seems well-liked by your precious Queen and the rest of the maids already…even you are starting to get fond of him, right?"
Sheffield immediately shot her canons towards the source of the voice, but again, she only hit the sea.
"I'll take that as a yes!" Purifier sounded excited. "And I don't blame you; he is playing the slow game, saving you when I tried to kill you, making peace with Belfast, feigning loyalty towards you Queen… before you realize, the entire Royal Navy will be in his hand and you'll have no choice but to follow him on his indecipherable goal."
"His goal…? What is his goal?" Sheffield couldn't help but ask. Did the Siren know something that they didn't?
"Who knows? People from different worlds are sometimes a mystery even for us Sirens."
"Eh…?" Sheffield didn't understand."Different…worlds….?"
"Oh? He never told you?" Purifier chuckled. "Maybe I said too much?"
"Explain." However, Sheffield was serious. "What did you mean by that?"
"Well, you see…long ago, the being called Fujimaru Ritsuka didn't exist, there are no records of a man with that name being born into this world. The first registered encounter with him was seven years ago, in an Antarctic base."
"All I am saying is that he came to this world rather than being born here." She laughed as if she had told the funniest joke ever. "He is, an outsider, an alien entity to this world, maybe even an invader… just like us Sirens."
Slash after slash was blocked by Lord Camelot, the darting maid in front of me, Sirius, attacked without a rest.
I felt a drop of sweat going down my forehead as I continue blocking her attacks, a sign that I was starting to get tired; soon, my movements would indeed begin to get slower too. Meanwhile, the maid seemed to be in top condition, not stopping her assault for even a second.
I didn't know how long I could keep up with her.
The fight had reached a stalemate, she couldn't bypass Lord Camelot, and I couldn't find a gap to attack….No, it was more accurate to say that my offensive capabilities were reduced at that moment since I couldn't use my left hand, I couldn't use gandr or try to punch her. I could probably heal it with magecraft, but I needed my other hand to do it, which was currently occupied holding Lord Camelot.
Even though Warspite had appeared, the situation still wasn't the best for me. I could try to stall the maid until the knight could help me, but I didn't know how she was faring against her own opponent, and I couldn't exactly look away from Sirius to check on her.
All I could do was trust that she would be able to defeat Dido before I was defeated.
That didn't mean, however, that I wouldn't fight with all my might.
After blocking one of her attacks, I planted my feet on the ground, put force in my reinforced legs, and charged towards the maid. I hoped that a full blow with Lord Camelot would be enough to throw her off balance.
However, she resisted my blow, blocking it while wielding her sword with two hands. Damn it. She was so strong… I only managed to push her a few inches back at best.
At that moment, as our weapons were forcefully clashing, we were almost face to face. I failed to notice before, but she was quite beautiful; however, that beauty was disturbed by an emotionless stare in her red eyes; it was like looking at a doll, something without life.
I didn't know her at all, but that stare felt so wrong…so unnatural.
"You…you are not doing this because you want, right?" It was a shot in the dark, but I couldn't shake the feeling that there was something wrong with her.
She didn't answer and kept looking at me with those dead eyes.
"Warspite said you were with the Royal Navy, and you are wearing a maid uniform like Belfast and the rest so… what have they done to you? Shouldn't you be with the Queen…?
She suddenly leaped, finally putting some distance between us, and then adopted a defensive stance, the same maid that had been on the attack the entire time for some reason abandoned her assault and went into defense mode.
But that wasn't all, the moment she separated from me, I noticed something.
Her eyes twitched as I mentioned the Queen. It was a small detail, but being so close allowed me to see it clearly.
Could it be…?
"Elizabeth, do you hear me?" I spoke using the communicator that was still in my left ear. "Can you try something for me?"
While Fujimaru was doing his best to keep up with Sirius, Warspite fought the other maid, Dido.
The black sword repeatedly clashed against the red one. Like Sirius, Dido had adopted an all-attack approach, trying to overwhelm the knight with a flurry of slashes. Warspite, on the other hand, had been on the defensive since the battle started. However, it wasn't because she couldn't attack. It was because she was testing the maid.
Memories that seemed to be locked before resurfaced the moment she saw the two swordswomen. They had spared before, she clearly remembered that, and something was different from back then. She didn't realize at first, but as she kept deflecting the maid's sword, she was getting more convinced: Dido's style was all over the place.
It wasn't that she lacked technique; she was clearly skilled in the use of the sword, but something was missing…
After the last clash, Warspite made a few steps back and lowered her sword. Then, she stood still, patiently waiting for Dido's next attack.
The maid didn't doubt for a second and attacked the unprotected knight with a vertical swing. But before the attack could touch Warspite, she raised her left arm and the metal side of a ship blocked the maid's attack.
The maid's attack was deflected by Warspite's partial release of her rig, which immediately disappeared as the knight attacked with a diagonal swing.
Dido didn't dodge in time, and the sword ate her flesh, staining the sword even redder.
"Dido should have seen that coming. It's unthinkable for a trained swordsman to lower her sword in the middle of a battle. She should have known I was up to something." Warspite thought.
A pained expression appeared on Dido's face; a big wound now went through her stomach to her chest. Regardless, she was adamant about continuing to fight.
"How futile." Warspite thought, and she didn't move her sword to block Dido's attack; instead, she just dodged.
Dido didn't give up and continued attacking with a series of swings, but Warspite dodged all of them.
She had the right techniques, but she lacked adaptability and future planning. Fighting her was no different from fighting a machine with prerecorded moves; and now that she was wounded, her movements were far more predictable.
The fight was already over. Even if she could still fight for a while, the maid couldn't possibly win against her.
Warspite had won; the only thing left was to find a way to neutralize her without killing her…
But then, something happened: Dido suddenly stopped her attacks and freeze on the spot.
"Your…" Dido put her hands on her head, dropping her sword on the ground, and started talking to herself. "Your…Majesty."
She fell on her knees, still grabbing her head with force.
"Your Majesty!" She repeated, like a trace."Don't…don't abandon me, your Majesty!" She started screaming. "Please don't abandon me!"
"What…?" Warspite didn't understand what had happened, but she heard a loud sound behind her when she was about to approach Dido.
So she turned back and saw the unthinkable.
For Sirius, the only thing that mattered was her mission: the destruction of the non-human threats. No other thing occupied her mind; for she was a weapon, a machine. Her world only existed as far as wielding her sword to defeat her targets. That's why when she heard the word "Queen", she felt confused.
Why did that word resonate so much on her mind? She didn't know. Apart from completing her mission, that word should have been useless, as she only existed for one sole purpose.
Any other thing was irrelevant.
Yes, she only needed to swing her sword and defeat her target. Thoughts were unnecessary and useless to her mission.
Having cleaned her mind of useless thoughts, she readied to attack the man again.
"Sirius, Dido. Stop your actions at once." However, a voice resonated in her mind, a voice different from her own. "This is an order from your Queen, Elizabeth I!"
And with those simple words, her small world collapsed.
"Queen…Queen Elizabeth…." She repeated her name, a name she had never heard before, but that it was still so familiar to her.
Queen Elizabeth…. the Queen of the Royal Navy…she had to protect her.
No, that was wrong. Her mission was to eliminate the non-human threat. That was the mission assigned to her since the day she was born into the world. Her creators said it, and they kept saying it: "Eliminate your targets. If you can't eliminate your targets, put an end to your existence." Those were her orders; that was her reason for existing.
But the Queen…she can't be left alone. Even though she was the Queen, she was still pretty much a child, sometimes too naïve for her good. That's why the maid corps existed, to be there when the Queen needed them.
Yes, she had to be protected; she had to be followed.
But her mission….no, that didn't matter, her place was with the Queen, her place was in the maid corps, as a maid and bodyguard.
"Your Majesty…" She muttered.
How could she have forgotten about the person she swore loyalty towards? Why was she fighting, if not for her Queen? A mission? Eliminate non-human threats? Why would she do that? How could she benefit the Queen with that?
But then who was she fighting so earnestly? Who was this male…human? Was he human? No, he was one of the non-human threats. He couldn't possibly be human if he was fighting her without help...but she sure looked like a human.
She tried to look at the "human" again, but she felt a sudden pain in her stomach. A strong blow was directed to her guts in mere seconds, and before she could counter-attack, she was already on the floor.
The man immediately pinned her to the floor, holding both of her arms with a strength rivaling her own. She tried to fight back, but he pushed her to the ground. He was effectively on top of her.
"Stay down." He said, looking fiercely at her with his blue eyes."If you move or try to materialize your sword, I'll break both of your arms."
He was serious. Sirius didn't find a trace of doubt in his words.
"Who…?" To be so easily overpowered, Sirius couldn't help but ask."Who…are you?"
"He is Ritsuka Fujimaru, Commander of the Royal Navy and Master of the Maid Corps." It was Elizabeth who answered, her prideful voice still resounded on her head due to the mental link. "He is your Master."
"Master…? My…honorable Master?"
Leaving Lord Camelot to the side to heal my arm, attacking directly and trying to restrain the maid with just my reinforced arms. Those series of actions were nothing short of suicidal; any wrong movement could have left me in a nasty spot.
However, it worked.
"Stay down. If you move or try to materialize your sword, I'll break both of your arms." I wasn't lying; I was prepared to make both her arms useless if she tried anything funny. I didn't fully know if my plan had worked, but I wasn't taking any chances.
"Who…? Who are you?"She looked at me surprised, the first glimpse of emotion I have seen her show. Had hearing Elizabeth woke her up from her trance?
However, before I could respond, she seemed to have found her answer.
"Master…? My…honorable Master?" She asked, expectantly.
She was speaking naturally and showing a lot more emotion than before. Maybe I was right, and hearing the voice of Elizabeth dispelled whatever was happening to her.
"I am not sure about the honorable part, but I am a Master." I wasn't sure about being her Master in particular since we didn't know each other at all. "How do you feel? Do you remember Warspite and everyone else?"
"My honorable master…." She didn't answer; she just kept looking at me as if she had never seen someone like me before. And to be fair, it was probably that, they don't seem to know of magecraft or about magi.
"…anyway, you won't attack me, right?"
She blinked at my question and then shook her head.
"Good, I'll release you now then…" I relaxed the grip on my hands a bit, as she didn't seem to be lying.
"My honorable Master….I have caused you troubles…I even raised my sword against you…" Sirius's tone was remorseful. "So it's fine….you should punish me now."
"Punish me! Teach this incompetent maid some proper manners!" Her tone suddenly went from remorseful to a weird kind of excited.
Suddenly my entire body was frozen in the place, as I had no words to answer such ridiculous request. My brain quickly searched for a logical explanation, but found none and basically stopped working.
Unable to make any proper movement, I just maintained my position on top of her.
"What are you two doing?" Asked Warspite, coming from behind and looking at us as if we were a pair of weirdos.
I slowly looked towards Warspite, which I think was the only sane person in the room, and answered.
"I honestly have no idea."
I thought that, when I finally beat one of these superhuman beings entirely myself, I would feel proud; I would feel like I had overcome a great challenge with just my abilities. So why? Why do I feel like I had lost instead?
I looked at the maid again; she was blushing while giving me a somewhat passionate stare.
…Yes, I had won. I had won a very close battle using all my abilities and critical thinking.
But against a pervert, I won using all my might against a pervert.
Give me back my expectations, Sirius.
"That's a lie." Sheffield immediately rejected that ridiculous idea, for her Master to be from a different world…it didn't make sense.
"Ah, but it's the truth." Purifier continued, her voice sounded pleasant."We Sirens can look through different timelines and worlds, so even if he somehow got rid of his family records, he wouldn't be able to escape our eyes."
"It was foolish of me even to hear you." Still, Sheffield was having none of that; she sailed again, resuming her search for an exit of the fog.
"Ah, but you feel it, don't you? That he isn't a normal person? That he is hiding something from you all?" Her words were like poison. "I know you aren't dumb, dear Sheffy. You must have noticed how he immediately got accustomed to give orders, despite being just a middle-school teacher."
"…" Sheffield couldn't deny that, no matter how much she wanted. Fujimaru didn't feel like someone who just got involved in the humans and Siren's war by accident; he was far too experienced in warfare and fighting for that. But to go from that to being someone capable of traveling between worlds …
"You don't have to believe me. Just ask him. Ask him about his past, ask him who Mashu was." The Siren voice began to sound far away. "That name will surely bring you closer to his real objective."
"Mashu…?" Sheffield didn't remember anyone with that name, nor did she remember Ritsuka mentioning it.
This time, Purifier didn't answer, but something happened around her: the fog started to dissipate, and the world started to become clear again.
"Just remember, be careful with that man who came from another world." When Purifier spoke again, she could finally be seen, still inside the fog. "As he isn't your ally, he is his own ally and has his own objectives."
Sheffield once again pointed her guns at her, but didn't pull the trigger this time. She had doubts; Purifier words had managed to reach the insecurities about her Masters deeply rooted inside her; she couldn't know if that man was indeed her ally or an enemy waiting to strike.
"Regardless of what my Master may or may not be, you'll always be my enemy, Siren." She said to Purifier, her words full of determination.
"Fufufufu, we'll see that, little pawn." Purifier smiled. "Maybe there will be a time when we'll be on the same side of the board."
"But that time is not now." Sheffield released a barrage of bullets, and the image of Purifier got distorted by the bullets and disappeared like smoke, as if she had been just an illusion of the white fog.
As the fog slowly dissipated, Sheffield managed to see the two other maids approaching her, Edinburgh waving her hand.
"Edinburgh, Belfast. How is the situati-?" She got interrupted as Edinburgh suddenly threw herself on her.
"Sheffy! I was so worried!" She hugged her hard. "How are you feeling? She didn't do anything weird to you right?" The maid started inspecting Sheffield, searching for any kind of wound or irregularity on her clothes.
"I am fine; you don't have to worry so much."
"Did you encounter the enemy, Sheffield?" Belfast showed her concern in a milder manner.
"Yes, but she didn't attack me. Rather it seems like she just wanted to speak nonsense." The serious maid didn't mention her suspicions about her Master, that could wait until they meet again. "What about you two?"
"Ahhh, it was horrible! That metal shark didn't leave us alone for a single minute!"
"Thankfully, we managed to avoid it without getting separated, however…" A pained expression appeared on Belfast's face. "You were right, we could hardly fight back. That Siren isn't like the others; it won't be enough with just us."
"Nope, I'll say you need at least two factions working together to have at least a slim chance." Purifier voice still could be heard.
"Waaah, she is still here?" Edinburgh quickly separated from Sheffield, and the three of them adopted once again their battle positions.
From the fog jumped Purifier, mounted on the black shark; the enormous black and golden machine was floating in the sky, rather than in the water.
"Did you think I'd leave without saying goodbye? I am not that heartless." The Siren made a reverence. "Farewell, friends! Next time be sure to bring Ritsuka along!" Her eyes began to shine with a mad glow. "Otherwise, it wouldn't feel as good to tear your limbs apart."
She was about to leave but stopped at the last minute.
"Ah, before I forget. Here is a parting gift."
Purifier snapped her fingers again, but this time, the fog began retreating…only to reveal an entire fleet of Siren Ships, surrounding the maid trio and pointing their guns at them.
And with those words, she left alongside her shark.
The Admiral sat crestfallen on his office chair, hiding an expression of defeat; a mortuary silence reined the room as he asked not to be disturbed.
His standard, neat black military jacket was now half open and unkempt; the cap that normally accompanied the uniform was thrown to the floor alongside a few dozen of papers. A bottle was on his hand, which he periodically brought to his lips.
He had failed.
They had lost contact with the assault squad sent with the new prototypes for about two hours now; it was clear that they had been captured or killed by that point. The status was unknown for the prototypes, but they seemed to have suffered the same fate.
He took another sip of his whisky bottle. The alcoholic beverage made his throat burn to the point that it hurt.
It was his last chance, and he was defeated. Now the rouge prototypes will surely counterattack with full force. Without the surprise factor, there was nothing they could do to defend themselves. Even if they started the gestation of another prototype, it wouldn't be ready on time.
He had lost. Humanity had lost.
"Well, aren't you been a little melodramatic?"
"You…you lied to me!" The Admiral shouted, even though he was utterly alone. "You said that I would win if I followed what you said!"
"Oh? You misunderstood. I only said you had an opportunity. If those two had attacked the base normally, they would have been obliterated in minutes."
"The outcome was still the same!" He once again lowered his gaze. "We lost…"
"Come on, William, are you going to throw the towel at this point of the game?"
"Shut up. Don't act as if we were close." He drank more whisky. "And it's over now; there is nothing to do besides fighting until our last breath."
"Well, not necessary." The voice now sounded mischievous.
"I can help you, William."
"Are you kidding me!? Your last plan was shit! Why would I ever trust you again!?"
"Because." The Admiral suddenly felt a hand touching his shoulder from behind. "We are old friends, William." The voice was no longer just on his head.
The Admiral immediately stood up, took his pistol, and pointed it to the apparition.
"No…." He recognized the man now in front of him, and his gun was lowered almost without realizing it."You…you are…"
He wore a similar military uniform aside from the medals he wore on his shoulder. Even the same cap was on his head, although when his own cap hid the lack of hair pretty much since his twenties, the apparition had short black hair. However, the uniform wasn't what took his breath away. It was his face; those brown eyes and that foolish, almost sickly optimistic smile he had seen so many times before, and thought he would never see again.
"Long time no see, my friend." The apparition said, his voice had a calm tone.
"You are just in my head…you aren't real!"
"Isn't what is real and what isn't a bit vague nowadays?"
"You got killed! I saw your mangled body…I…I even went to your funeral!"
"And it was such a nice funeral. 'Fallen in the line of duty.' they said, 'He died for his country.' they repeated, 'He was a hero.' they said to my crying widow. If only they knew I was split in half by a faulty government experiment."
"Shut up!" He threw the whisky bottle to the apparition that wore the face of his friend, who easily dodged it. "Don't talk as if you were really him, you are just…"
"…!" The Admiral couldn't continue, as the apparition had just appeared just in front of him.
"Come one, you know me, William." The man took him by the face and looked straight into his eyes. "Don't you remember those times in the academy? Like when I took the blame when you sneaked alcohol in behind our superiors' back? Or when we got into a fight because some idiots wanted to steal our rations?"
"No…" He did remember those events, but he simply couldn't accept it. "You can't be here…you died. Those accursed things killed you!"
"But I came back, and it's all thanks to this." The man extended his hand, and on it appeared a black and purplish box, it was similar to the cubes they used to create the prototypes, but with a black shine instead of a blue one.
"The answer to your problems, my friend."
The cube's black shine dazed the Admiral; it was as if the object absorbed the light around it like an insatiable black hole. He couldn't help but feel attracted to the mysterious object, and he extended his hand to touch it.
The exact moment his finger grazed the surface of the cube, the box released a wave of black light, and the room was submerged in darkness.
The only thing that remained visible in the dark room was the glowing golden eyes of the apparition.
END OF CHAPTER 13
ANNOUNCEMENT: The story has a discord server now, feel free to come by and chill.
Invite : discord. gg / kvRCbruzaT (erase the spaces, obviously)
AN: Chapter 13 done. As with the last one, I have nothing much to say, apart from that I really liked writing the Sirens this chapter. Also, I really wish the Admiral parts were at least alright, I am pretty sure most people don't care much about him since he is the obvious villain, but I wanted to give him more flavor apart from the "evil military man." Also, writing him swear is somewhat cathartic.
And I think that it's, if you want to ask me something, you can hit me on the discord, I guess I'll be posting periodic (PERIODIC) update there and I don't know, maybe bicker about VNs I am playing right now.
See you on next chapter.