1: It's always sunny in Chaldea - wait, no, that's fire.
-Base sequence: human genome confirmed
Welcome to the data center for the future of humankind. This is the Security Organization for the Preservation of Humanity, Chaldea.
Fingerprint, voiceprint, and DNA authentication cleared. Magical Circuit assessment -
Severe ruptures detected within Magic Circuits. Depletion of Od will result in contamination of the Soul by Gaia due to Mana backflow. Please see Dr. Romani Archman for a more in-depth medical analysis.
Excessive values of the Sixth Imaginary Factor detected within user.
Signs of Demonic Possession necessitate further scans.
-Attempting to quantify user's existence…
User exists outside the domain.
User appears to have been marked by a god from another universe.
User's existence is heretical to the human order.
User is a [Threat to Humanity].
Hooo... Tf iyhpu ayltislz…
You are recognized as a member of the primates.
Nice to meet you.
You're our final visitor today.
Welcome to Chaldea, Natsuki Subaru.
The word that best describes the interior of Chaldea is "clean". Not a single blemish to be found on its spotless white walls and ceiling. Bright fluorescent bulbs ensure that no shadow is cast.
Well, that's the walls and ceiling, anyway. The floor might be filthy for all I know. All I can really say about it from my current position is that it's surprisingly comfortable. What's a little less comfortable is the small squirrel-dog creature that apparently decided to take a nap on my chest while I was unconscious on the floor. Slowly, I attempt to lift him off of myself.
...Oi, there's no way he should be this hard to lift. He's lying on me, and I can tell that there's no way he weighs more than a kilogram or two. And yet, even with both hands, I can't make him budge.
"Ah! You're awake then, Senpai?" a familiar-sounding voice says. A voice I haven't heard since the day oh so long ago that I was returned to Earth. The day the life I had built from zero in another world was ripped away from me.
My head whips towards her, so quickly that I inadvertently pop my neck a bit. That's going to hurt later, but more importantly, that voice is..!
She's a teenage girl, maybe a year or two younger than me, wearing a miniskirt, sweater, and tights - and, looking closer, it seems she's wearing a button-up shirt under the miniskirt that she's attached her red necktie to. Her left eye is purple - I can't see her right eye, as it's covered by her silvery-purple hair, but presumably it's the same color.
"Senpai? Is something wrong?" the girl asks. Listening more closely, there's definitely a difference between them, but...
Her voice sounds almost exactly like Emilia's. Not to mention the similarity in eye and hair color, and the fact that her hair is covering the same eye that Rem's did.
"...That's so unfair," I mumble, trying to hold the tears back.
"...It's nothing. Your voice just sounded like someone I knew. That's all," I reply.
"Ah," she replies, and looks away for a bit. I feel kind of guilty now...
"Anyway, I can't lift this guy for some reason. Can you help me get him off?" I ask, motioning to the sleeping squirrel-dog.
"...Eh? Fou-kun? Why are you sleeping on…?" She asks. "Um, I'll try, but… Fou-kun can be really stubborn, so…"
She shakes the critter, but it doesn't move at all.
"So!" I exclaim. "I'm Natsuki Subaru, forty-eighth master candidate! Nice to meet you!"
"Um, likewise! Mash Kyrielight, nice to meet you! And this strange creature is Fou-kun. Usually he doesn't like being around humans other than me, so I guess this makes you his second caretaker, Senpai. Congratulations!" She says with a stunningly pure smile.
...Mash-tan is cuuuuute!
"Roger! You can count on me, Mash-tan!" I say, giving her a thumbs up.
"Thank you, Senpai. Although, with you in that position…" She says, scratching her cheek.
"Heh. I guess it's hard to look reliable when you're pinned to the ground by a small animal, huh?" I chuckle.
Suddenly, Fou wakes up, springing to his feet, and scampers away.
"And there he goes, huh?" I ask, standing up.
"Yes, he does that sometimes. Just wanders around," she says with a small smile.
From behind me, I hear footsteps, and I turn to see - is that Robert E. O. Speedwagon!?
"Ah, there you are, Mash. That won't do, you know, wandering about without permission…" He says with a smile and nearly closed eyes. Hang on, "without permission"? Are these guys keeping cute Mash-tan as some kind of prisoner? That's no good, you know! Don't make me die at you a whole bunch, Chaldea! I'll do it, don't test me!
"Oh, someone's already with you? You're…" He mutters, and as his eyes fall over me I feel vaguely uneasy. Ugh. Magi give me the creeps. I've died for their shitty experiments enough times, thanks. Still, I put on a brave face and smile.
"Natsuki Subaru! Master candidate forty-eight! Nice to meet you."
"Oh! You're that one with the absurdly high master affinity!" he says, snapping his fingers. "I knew I'd seen your face in our files. Really, it's a shame you didn't apply earlier. If we'd had the time to give you proper training, we might have been able to replace Gut with you!"
He laughs, and Mash gives a faint chuckle. "Oh, by the way, if you do meet Beryl, don't tell him I said that. He'll probably try to kill you if you do." If this Beryl guy wasn't presumably a magus, I'd assume he was exaggerating, but that sounds exactly like the sort of petty stuff a magus might murder me over.
"R-right." I say with a nervous chuckle.
"Well, it's nice to meet you Subaru-kun. I'm Lev Lainur, one of the technicians here at Chaldea. We're a bit low on time, so let's hurry on over to the command room. The director is about to give the orientation."
Chaldea's director is a real piece of work. Olga-Marie Animusphere is only a few years older than me at the most, and yet she's in charge of this whole facility. She's got a sense of pride to her, but… there's also a quiet sort of desperation. She's well aware of how precarious her position is. In the cutthroat world of Magi, youth means inexperience, which means easy pickings. Just because she's the superior of a number of people older than her, doesn't mean she's in a secure position; rather, it means that there's a target on her back.
The upshot of this is that the orientation is something like fifty percent magibabble and fifty percent her trash-talking all the candidates in some sort of attempt to bully them into line. All the verbal assault makes it a bit tough to pay attention until she finally gets into explaining our big problem.
A singularity. Someone has been messing around with time travel, and if the distortion in Fuyuki City in 2004 isn't corrected, modern humanity will cease to exist.
Well, that explains why I keep spontaneously combusting around two hours from now. I'm not sure how they keep failing to fix it, but this is definitely the reason it's happening. Well, you know what they say - if you want something done right, do it yourself.
A few hours later, all forty-eight master candidates - along with Mash, for some reason? - are loaded up into the so-called "coffins". Not exactly the best name for a device that's supposed to keep people alive.
Yeah, it's not as big of a surprise as it should be when the entire rayshift room explodes.
My coffin is one of the two closest to the explosion, and I'm catapulted out of the thing, sent flying across the room. Well, my upper half is, anyway. The coffin neatly severed my waist from my upper body as it folded under the pressure of the blast. I arc through the air, organs trailing out behind me like a spark trail from a demented firework.
Time seems to slow down as through the glass of the command room, I see Olga-Marie Animusphere's horrified face as her flesh and bone is melted into a fine red mist. I see the various technicians reduced to charred corpses, embedded with glass, surviving the fire only to be turned into swiss cheese by shrapnel. Lev doesn't even have time to react - he's still smiling at our successful launch even as his body is reduced to ash.
Finally, my dying torso hits the ground with a wet flop, bouncing once, twice, before lying still. It really hurts. It hurts so much. I've had worse, but this is up there in the top twenty at least. Doesn't help that I can feel the fire licking at my waist, cauterizing my wounds. It's going to take a while for me to finally die.
Above my head, I can hear the automated announcement rambling some stuff about the rayshift, but that doesn't really matter right now.
A few meters away, I see Mash, everything from her waist down pinned beneath a massive slab of rock. She's still alive, for now. Unfortunately, I've been flattened before - something on that level is definitely unsurvivable.
It really doesn't matter. The most sensible move would be to accelerate my own death so I don't have to suffer any longer. She won't remember this after the reset, after all.
But… as I look at her, lying there, crying. I just can't bring myself to abandon her.
Luckily, I do have a way to accelerate my transport. In the time since I returned to earth, I got a bit better at using the authorities I inherited from the Archbishops that I had killed. And so, forming a pair of extra hands with my [Invisible Providence], I crawl over to Mash and flop myself down next to her.
"Yo, Mash-tan." I say with a forced grin.
"...Ah… Senpai… Y-your legs are…" she mutters, eyes widening.
"Don't worry. It'll be alright. Just think about different things for now, okay? Like, do you have any dreams for the future, Mash-tan?" I reply. As I do so, I activate the authority I got from the Archbishop of Greed, using [Cor Leonis] to siphon Mash's pain into myself. Ultimately, it doesn't change much - luckily for me, most of her injuries are on the half of my body that was severed, so I can't actually feel the transferred pain.
"Mm. That's… alright. I think that, one day, I want… to see the outside world. I grew up inside Chaldea, so I've never been able to go anywhere else." She says with a faint smile.
"Alright. We'll go there together, okay, Mash-tan? Everywhere you want to go. I promise," I say, forcing out another smile.
"Mm." She replies with a smile and a nod. "Senpai… I'm cold. Can I hold your hand?"
I grasp her hand tightly, and she closes her eyes, her breathing slowing.
Mine is too, and pretty soon I can hear the whispers of the witch as darkness shrouds my vision and her rands reach out for me. There's a faint dragging sensation, and then...
1. The readings at the beginning are influenced by the Witch tagging along with Subaru. Which readings are influenced, and to what extent, I'm leaving to reader interpretation.
2. The gibberish in the middle of the login process is a caesarian cipher that decodes to "Ahhh... My brain trembles..."
3. Mash sounds like Emilia. This is a voice actor joke(? Does it count as a joke if half of its existence is to make Subaru suffer?).
4. Subaru may be subconsciously treating Mash as a replacement Emilia. This is definitely unhealthy behavior, and I don't recommend doing such things in your own life.
5. Did they get rayshifted, or did Subaru die? Who knooooows! (I'm leaving it open until the next chapter to give myself wiggle room).
6. This story may or may not be an excuse to give filler servants a chance to shine. Eric Bloodaxe may actually kill someone in this story.