The roar of an engine had never sounded so monstrous to Itami's ears, but now really wasn't the time to entertain such superficial concerns. Rather, he was too busy taking in what was happening around him.
When the fire rained down from above, he was the first to notice Shirou slip out of the Toyota's overhead gun rack and onto the roof. What Shirou did from there was beyond Itami's understanding, but just as Itami had noticed Shirou act, he also noticed the terror that flickered across the faces of the others in the Toyota.
Tuka and Caila were gripping onto their bows, trying to follow Shirou out, but their bodies were more honest, wobbling knees and shot senses made them disoriented and slow. Meanwhile, Lelei and her master were muttering under their breaths, but Gray, Gray was her name wasn't it? Well, she was different.
Itami scrutinized Gray while buckling himself into his seat and calling for the vehicle's driver to calm down. Even now, Kurobayashi and the concerned yells of the others were being transmitted through the car's radio. Chain of command was already broken, and all that was left were the decisions of individuals.
It was utter chaos, but then why was Gray still reserved?
This was the reason Itami's gaze had focused on Gray from the moment the onset of panic had set in. She didn't seem all that surprised when Shirou moved, and instead, carefully buckled herself in and cradled her glowing lamp.
Little did anyone but Gray know, but even though they may face a Dragon, their side also had a Dragon of its own.
It happened the moment that name was evoked.
A blue aura pulsed throughout the entire vehicle before the metal groaned and warped in shape. The sides grew angular, the heavy bullet-plates and side auxiliaries, twisting into sleek gold-lined shields. The fender, grill, and bumper protruded and exuded a stream of blue light, resembling a kilt like the old caparisons worn over war horses of the past.
The front dashboard, steering wheel, and gear shifts had a complete overhaul. The entire thing morphed into a single steering mechanism that excluded the driver's input into the pedals. Rather, the Toyota now seemed able to move on its own without care for the front driver's input.
Itami took a deep breath.
Llamrei, the mythical horse of King Arthur who was said to have hauled even the largest of lake monsters from the depths. Its hooves would even print over hardened stone, but a Toyota wasn't a horse!
Before Itami could even dwell over the specifics, the Toyota began swerving and accelerating, dodging the gouts of flame raining from above, but jostling everyone inside.
The brave elves 'eeped' as they were tossed into the trunk area after unfastening their seat belts, but everyone else was still strapped in.
What was going on out there?
Itami couldn't just remain idle. Kuribayashi and the others were still out there as part of their convoy, but unlike the Toyota, Itami doubted the armed truck would offer the same protection if it gained the Dragon's ire.
Taking a risk, Itami unfastened his seat belt and moved to man the Toyota's overhead gun rack.
Unlike the elves that were thrown to the back, Itami made his way forward by steadying himself using the side straps within the vehicle.
Reaching his destination, he poked half his body onto the roof of the high-mobility Toyota.
A world of red flames constantly pouring down from up high was what awaited Itami.
The heat of the dragon's flames should have killed him instantly, but a sheen of what Itami could only understand to be 'magic' coated the entire vehicle and elevated its parameters. Rather than burn, it just felt warm, like working under the sun on a hot summer's day.
"Aim for the wings."
Itami glanced behind him, staring at Shirou who stood directly on the roof, bursts of wind and mana coating his sword warding away the flames. No, rather than warding, it was more concise to say that he was cutting it with sheer force.
Itami knew that the sword was broken in specs, but he was now very, very thankful that Rory didn't manage to escalate tensions into violence prior.
Jolted from a sudden turn, Itami got his priorities straight once more.
Aim for the wings?
It was like Shirou knew that the Toyota's mounted gun fired bullets?
Having no time to truly process anything more than that, Itami swiveled the barrel of the gun turret to aim at the Dragon spewing fire overhead. Both hands clasped onto the handle, the whir of machinery reverberating as ammunition lines were fed into the gun chamber and ignited as he pressed down on the trigger.
Ting ting ting ting!
Bullet casings spewed out, ejected from the turret's firing mechanisms, but that accounted for the least of Itami's wonderment. Every shot fired was encased in glowing mana that Itami swore had basically become the equivalent of armor-piercing shells despite just being standard bullets. No, more than that, they exploded upon contact when the dragon swerved and dodged. Mottling the ground, numerous explosions peppered the landscape.
This was going way beyond any level of common sense.
Itami cooled his features, but what was troubling was that the dragon moved further and further out of reach. It was one thing to attack someone from overhead, and it was another to attack from the ground.
The possessor of the highground always had the advantage.
Tires digging into the grass, Shirou let Arturia use her Riding skill to maneuver through the enemy's attacks. All the while, he focused on swinging his sword to cut apart the walls of flame that couldn't be dodged.
Itami continued to fire to no avail.
The magic enhanced bullets sailed into the sky, but lost momentum and would fall back down, creating a hazard for the armed truck with Kuribayashi and the others.
Shirou gritted his teeth, his brows knitting together. More than just the dragon, he was concerned that the rogue magus they were tracking was nearby and spectating, waiting for an opportunity.
No magus worth their craft would turn away from a Dragon's materials, but at the same time, a dragon going around slaughtering villages wasn't something Shirou could let go either.
Swinging his sword, the release of another mana burst dispersed the majority of the flames seeking to incinerate him even now.
Grunting, he slashed out and sent a crescent of cutting winds to the Dragon above, but it merely flapped its wings again and ascended to a higher elevation.
The Dragon was too high to reach. It was a simple deduction, and one with an even simpler solution.
Shirou knew for a fact that he could shoot the beast down with his bow, but that meant taking the reins of his body's control out of Arturia's hands. He would then have to provide the Riding skill necessary to keep the Toyota and its occupants safe, which he had no idea how to do. Of course, he would still have Arturia's Riding skill, but he didn't think he'd be able to familiarize himself with it quick enough while aiming and shooting his bow at the same time.
He could opt to focus on one over the other, but that solved nothing.
Then there was Rory Mercury who looked content on watching the proceedings with a transfixed gaze. When she noticed him staring, she shrugged. It wasn't as if she had a method to reach the Dragon either.
Well…there was one weapon readily available, but getting it may prove complex.
"Gray," Shirou suddenly called out at Arturia's resolute prompting.
Inside the vehicle, Gray tensed, pretending as if she didn't hear anything while biting down on the inside of her cheeks. To everyone else who heard Shirou's call, their gaze focused on Gray, wondering what was going on and what relation she had with Shirou to be depended on right now.
In response, Gray pursed her lips, staring as if she was looking at an enemy, but uncertain as Shirou had been showing himself as anything but. Her stubbornness was bred from the trauma of her past, something not easily assuaged or passed over.
She knew. She knew damn well exactly what was being asked of her, and who was asking for it…and it wasn't Shirou.
That was why she was hesitating all the more.
In the end, the matter was taken out of her hands when her own scythe materialized and then hovered in front of her without a word of warning.
"Add…?" Gray muttered in betrayal, staring at her scythe that solemnly floated in front of her in silent admonishment.
Betrayal? No. It wasn't that. Add was chiding her? The dark feeling within her gradually retreated.
She, she was letting anger get the best of her? This much was clear now. She balled her hands into fists and sharply looked away. Now was not the time for animosity.
"Fine. Take it." Gray forced out through her teeth.
Everyone, especially Rory, immediately grew interested when the scythe then floated up to Shirou's hands above the car.
Arturia said not a word on the mixed feeling he could feel between her and Gray, but they weren't going to put their matters ahead of a pressing situation.
It would only be a fraction of the real thing to prevent the destruction of the Mystic Code: Add, but the presence of its true owner bridged the gap in utility.
Arturia began to focus and call upon the true weapon in hand.
The Dragon had miraculously survived the edge of an Anti-Dragon sword by turning its vitals away, but this lance never misses its mark.
-Invincibility pierce and Sure hit.
The Dragon would not survive this blow.
Shirou's grip tightened around the lance, motes of golden light appearing all around him amidst the flames.
The winds tell the tale of an ephemeral glory born in the twilight and seen upon a horizon in the middle of nowhere.
Raising the weapon up, spiraling energies began to unravel and elongate, twisting and emanating an aura of suppression.
It would surely awaken and answer, beckoned upon the call of its one true king.
Arturia took full control.
"Sacred lance," her voice blended with his own, creating an otherworldly dissonance that echoed beyond the chaos. "Remove restraints."
Time seemed to freeze, a deluge of power and mystic aura whirring into motion. The royal blues and gold that framed the steed that was 'Toyota,' shone ever brighter; a repelling force pushing back all that drew near.
Royal mantle billowing in the wind, the rider of the noble steed stood under the gaze of all. The scythe he held in hand was quiet, but the golden motes of light that congregated around it told of another story.
Add's voice echoed, liberating the suppressants of the Mystic Code's limiters that concealed its true form.
["D-Did the weapon just talk?!"]
Itami could no longer tell who was yelling through the radio or in the car anymore, but he had no choice but to agree with the notion while holding onto the handle of the vehicle turret for dear life. The G-forces from rapid turns and high-speed movement were already taking their toll, and the weapon did just talk. It was like he was in a fever dream, but one that only continued to shatter his belief in the laws that governed his home world.
The scythe in Shirou's hands began to break down, curves straightening, base, widening into a coiled helix.
What lay within the scythe was now nothing less than a radiant lance piercing through the veil of flames.
That lance was raised up, pointing to the stars above.
"Light, may you be released from the ends of the world."
Those words served as a trigger, the king's mount rearing back on its hind wheels. The others within paled, fingers gripping tightly onto their seat belts, but that did nothing when they began to experience what could only be weightlessness.
"Beyond the skies lies the far side of the earth."
The flames bathing the area were blasted apart, revealing the night illuminated by the moon.
Within the view of the other convoy vehicle, the mounted Toyota suddenly flew, climbing into the air, higher, and higher still. Higher than even the dragon that craned its neck to stare above.
"Split the heavens and tether the world!"
Flying to its zenith, Llamrei II came to a stop at the boundary between land and air. From all sides, the view that could be seen from up high were the very edges of the land.
The helix around the lance held aloft began to unwind and stretch to the fabrics that define reality.
"This is a wedge of light that stands at the end of all."
The layers of the world itself began to unravel upon its tip. Nonetheless, none of that mattered as the feeling of gravity pulling down made everyone come to the realization of what was about to happen as their view angled down at the Dragon beneath.
["T-This is so bullshit!"]
["They're going to die. They're going to die."]
["N-No wonder this bastard was undefeated. W-Who can even stand against that?!"]
"Anchor of the storm!"
Rapid acceleration pressed everyone into their seats, the core of the lance's helix fully primed and aimed at its descent.
["Brace you poor bastards! BRACE!"]
A lance that shines with a distant dawn.
A star came falling down.
A pair of bunny ears perked up as weak vibrations traveled through the ground and rattled the interior of a high council building. The shaking was enough to knock over vases and decorative ornaments placed on counters or hung on walls.
Did someone anger a God?
The woman at the head of a high council seat overlooking an empty meeting room, could care less right now.
She was Tyuule, Queen of the warrior bunnies, and victory for her people had never been so close.
"My Queen, the Empire's forces are pulling back!" The attendant by Tyuule's side was positively beaming, her lips curled up and eyes playful rather than downcast.
Tyuule did not react, rather she steepled her fingers, and then tiredly leaned her head into her hands in utter silence. Her features were tense, a perpetual glare making her eyes look bloodshot.
"Your Majesty?" The attendant wasn't a fool. Someone at her station was quite experienced in reading the mood and had a healthy degree of observational skill. "You…don't look that happy?"
Tyuule glared sharply, no longer able to keep the neutrality of her demeanor.
Happy? The empire's forces pulled back, but at what cost?!
Was the kingdom worth the eternal servitude of one good bunny's sacrifice? She might have believed it once, but he was a bunny of her kingdom. A worthy bunny sent to the wolves!
Why should she be happy when he was there and not here where he belonged with his people?! W-With her…
Her actions now would echo throughout eternity. The Queen who wouldn't even stand up for the injustice that befell one of her own.
"Get out." Tyuule ground the words through her teeth, eyes glaring at the innocent aide.
The attendant shriveled in trepidation, not knowing what she did or said wrong? Pitifully, her ears drooped before she ran sniffling out of the room.
A sigh sounded in the meeting hall, revealing that Tyuule wasn't the only one present.
"Don't blame her, your Grace." Lia finally spoke up, a wryness in her steps. She was one of the three warrior bunny elites that served as Tyuule's war generals, and someone who understood what Tyuule must be thinking. "She doesn't know what my Lord Honey Bunbun sacrificed in exchange for our people's survival."
Tyuule rubbed at her temples. It was a fair point, but stress took away from one's logic. No wait… "Who did you just say?"
Lia blinked coquettishly. "Lord Waver?"
No. The honey bunbun thing- you know what, forget it. She'd just give a speech about homewreckers overreaching their stations! Friend, close friend, or not, there were limits women do not cross.
Tyuule stared coldly at Lia who was lucky that she was too capable to make disappear.
Tyuule shook her head, and refocused, staring vacantly at the air.
"Don't tell me you're really considering that vile cat tribe's conditions?" Lia asked, troubled.
Lia read Tyuule all too well. She was spot on as the two were childhood friends.
In the end, Tyuule did not answer with mere words, but with decisive action.
"Prepare some diplomats."
Tyuule stood up and donned her ceremonial attire that marked her as Queen of the Warrior bunnies.
"We…will sign a pact with the organization known as El-Melloi."
My last few updates have been kind of short, and I apologize for that. For the last week and a half, I'm going to get busy with a lot of things in order to prepare for a promotional review at work, so my mind has been kind of distracted. I'll try to organize things on my end as fast as I can, so please bear with me in the meantime.
Thanks for reading, and thanks to my newest patron: Samuel G!
Next update: Fate Hero and Sword
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