A/N: Thanks to Jameyofthemegacosmos for his work on the chapter. Much inspiration for this chapter has come from God of War 4 and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
I apologize for this chapter not coming sooner, but a couple of exhausting months that left me worn out mentally and physically due to work and real life had taken its toll on my writing ability. However, I should be picking things back up with a update for my Fate/Grand Order crossover to come soon.
Now I know some people want things to not be so sluggish or slow, but I am preparing for events of Saitama Ghetto coming soon within the chapter after the next one. I am also working to take time to give some of the characters introduced in previous chapters a chance to shine.
Anyway, I've delayed long enough with the posting of this chapter so let's move on, enjoy the chapter.
Land of the Dark Ones
A portal assembled itself at another world. Once it was active, Lelouch stepped out into the new Realm, wearing his mask. Wilmarina, Koyoi, Alameria, Paula, and Primera were following him with similar covers.
Their surroundings were primarily green and purple trees with fungi and liquid substances dripping from them. Some small swamps and lakes were unusually dark blue, green, and purple. Nonetheless, many creatures were still thriving in such a sickly environment, such as large slug-like creatures, tiny flying insects, and deformed lizards. Toxic fumes composed of the environment and animals' waste fouled the air, though it meant nothing to Lelouch and his party with their masks.
"Paula," Lelouch went up the Musketeers after she attempted to open her mask to get some fresh air. He held some vials that contained antidotes in case something like this happened. "This isn't the time to open your mask just yet. Wait until you get to our destination first."
"S-Sorry," Paula said, suddenly coughing. "What is this place anyway? Why are we coming here?"
"To answer your second question, there is a village nearby that house what we'll need," Lelouch slipped an antidote to handle her cough.
"If you're going to let things distract you, maybe you shouldn't have come along," Wilmarina remarked with the hard truth.
"I," Paula regained her voice after receiving the antidote. "I was just curious as to what these other worlds look like, that's all."
"Speaking of which," Alameria noticed. "I heard that this is the second time you came to an unknown world with Lelouch."
The dhampir's voice was directed at Primera, who wanted to climb up the large vines. She merely slipped due to the slimy surfaces, having her fall flat on her back.
"Maybe she's just interested in these other worlds," Koyoi said innocently.
"Or maybe he just likes bringing half-breeds along," Paula said.
"PAULA!" Wilmarina exclaimed at her.
"What, what did I do?" The Musketeer startled. "I mean, you have Primera and Alameria here, and I heard one of Lelouch's new friends at the school was also a half-breed. So…"
"That doesn't mean it's okay to say it," Wilmarina scolded. "It's very insensitive and hurtful."
"I agree," Lelouch said. "Primera was only interested in seeing this world."
"So maybe ask me before making the wrong assumption, you idiot!" Primera glared at Paula with red cheeks.
"Primera, that's enough," Wilmarina said as Paula began sobbing over Primera's comment. "I think you've made your point."
"That was mean," Paula said between sobs.
"It's your fault," Primera replied coldly.
"In any case, to answer your first question," Lelouch resumed the conversation to quell Primera's anger and give Paula a chance to recover. "What you see is the remains of Svartalheim, the land of the dark elves."
"Wilmarina told me how Helheim became a frozen landscape," Alameria inspected the dense swamp-like terrain around them. "This place has more life to it. Did life recover here?"
"In a sense, yes," Lelouch answered as they continued forward. "Unlike the other realms, the elves of Svartalheim were well prepared for the calamity that befell their world. They had constructed an underground city that served as a bunker that allowed them to ride out worse of Ragnarok, but their world was left devastated and barely capable of supporting life."
"So, the elves cowardly hid as the Realms burned?" Primera did not hide her contempt for elven races, which was caused by her upbringing.
"Not quite, although their underground city allowed them to survive the devastation of their world, they knew Kalika would finish the job," Lelouch used his sword to cut some vines in their path. "So they continued to aid the alliance to ensure Kalika's defeat; otherwise, she would've dealt with them herself once she became aware of their survival."
"Were they the ones who restored their world then?" Koyoi inquired as she followed closely behind Lelouch.
"Yes, but they made their world into a hostile one to keep out other races. After Ragnarök, they were the first race to recover, thanks to their underground city quickly. I am unsure about the details, but they adopted an isolationist policy and cut ties with other races. Well, almost…"
"Almost?" Wilmarina asked.
"The elves of Svartalheim still needed raw materials for their works and to sustain their race. The world of Svartalheim had exhausted most of their natural resources, so they created a trading post to exchange with people of the other realms for what they need."
"Making their world a poisonous and hostile one likely didn't help," Primera remarked as she observed a small animal being devoured by monstrously plant with sharp teeth.
"As their population continued to grow, the underground city that served as their haven could no longer sustain the growing population. So they moved back to the surface and began building new cities with farmlands to support themselves."
"But they didn't have the materials to build everything," Wilmarina said, which Lelouch confirmed with a nod. "I imagine they had to build them to be contained within a dome or special wall to protect them from how toxic their world has become."
"That's right, and all of their cities are contained within domes to protect their people."
"These people sound very different from the dark elves we've learned about," Alameria recalled the dark elves among the Monster Girls of her world.
"That's true, but I would avoid mentioning any word of them to any of the elves here," Lelouch cautioned as he felt very uneasy recalling the dark elves of Primera's world.
The dark elves of Svartalheim are among the original progenitor race for the elves, with the dark elves' name being something they gained from having lived underground for a time after Ragnarok. Unlike the other realms and races, the elves had recovered far more quickly than the rest, followed by the dwarves. The elves of Svartalheim still hold the title of the most advanced race among the realms for their advancements in magic and engineering, which led to the development of Magitek.
Following Ragnarök, other colonies of the elves established in the other Realms died except on Midgard. The ones that survived then evolved from their predecessors.
The dark elves of Midgard, before Lilith rose to power, had evolved into a race known for its extreme debauchery. It was a female-dominated society that had no restraint and foregone anything that would've been considered taboo by other races. Female dark elves were encouraged to pursue their desires first and foremost, which resulted in them joining their mothers in learning sex by having threesomes with their parents.
That was merely the tip of the iceberg as they engaged in acts such as bondage with males treated basically as sex slaves.
Once Lilith became the new Demon Lord and changed Monster Girls, the Dark Elves were among the first non-monster races to gladly offer themselves for monsterization.
"If not for the presence of the Chief God. I think the elves of Svartalheim would've wiped out those on Midgard ages," Lelouch said. "That is, if not for having the same name of their race."
"So the dark elves here are similar to the elves of Midgard then?" Primera asked.
"As in being haughty, isolationist, and puritanical, then yes, they are similar in that regard. However, the dark elves here are dangerously pragmatic. They'll do what must be done to ensure the prosperity of their race as a whole, hence their willingness to trade with other realms and races out of necessity for continued growth. But they are capable of developing weapons of wiping out entire armies or nations even if they wanted."
"Wanted," Primera noticed something about the last part of Lelouch's statement.
"They have foregone making weapons of war, but I wouldn't presume them to be defenseless," Lelouch said as they neared a clearing. "Their cities are well defended by using alternative means of dealing with hostile outsiders."
Upon exiting the clearing, the group was attacked by humanoid-like creatures. Besides their general humanoid appearance, they were crossed with elements of a winged insect. Their bodies possessed a chitinous exoskeleton of segmented plates with a fang-filled mouth and glowing white eyes with a devilish appearance armed with a crude sword. The rest of the six similar creatures wielded crude spears made out of wood and carved stone.
Using his sword, Lelouch dodged the attack of the monster before swiftly beheading it.
The rest of the enemy group converged upon Wilmarina and the others, but Paula drew her new pistols. In quick secession, she fired off five shots. All of them hit their mark, piercing the forehead of each enemy causing their heads to explode as a testament to the destructive power of Paula's new weapons.
But the attack wasn't over because more of those insect-like warriors were emerging from the swamp's dense tree covering in an attempt to ambush the group from behind. However, Primera had readied her bow as Paula took down the first group of enemies. Letting her arrow fly, Primera killed another enemy with an arrow through the narrow space between the chitinous armor in the neck. Her second arrow impaled an attacking enemy through its right eye, impeding it long enough for Alameria to finish it off by cleaving it in half down the middle.
Koyoi didn't bother drawing her sword. Instead, she used empowered strikes to shatter the chest cavities of the first enemy to pick her as its target. It coughed up blood as its heart and Koyoi's powerful blow crushed internal organs. Another enemy creature tried to get revenge by flanking Koyoi. Still, she jumped to evade its spear before delivering a powerful roundhouse kick to the head with enough force behind it to snap the neck of the creature to send its head flying off into the swamp.
Wilmarina froze two of them with one swing of her sword, leaving them flash-frozen along with parts of the swamp in the path of her strike.
Alameria defended Paula as she used her pistols to take down more reinforcements of the unknown creatures. Wielding her magic blade Alameria beheaded and decapitated three enemies within a minute, amazed by how easily her blade was cutting through their armored hides.
Lelouch killed the last one by heading it, which caused the rest of them to flee back into the swamps.
"What were those things?" Alameria asked as she swung her sword to remove the blood on it.
"Gottkrieger," Lelouch answered. "The dark elves created them as attack dogs without leashes."
"Wait, you mean the elves here created them!?" Primera said, surprised they would go that far.
"Didn't I say they used alternative means to defend their cities?" Lelouch said as he and everyone continued. "Granted, they have no control over them, but their cities are so well-defended they pose no threat to them."
"And they think having no control of them was a good idea?" Wilmarina questioned, putting away her sword.
"I don't think it was intentional on their part, but they'll never admit that."
"How far until we reach this trading outpost?" Koyoi asked.
"Not much further," Lelouch said as he led the group forward.
Back on Earth, Mimil and Nunnally returned to Agartha after their middle school classes. It was the end of the week, so they had time to enjoy new activities together.
"Have you thought about what you wanted to do this weekend?" the blind girl asked Mimil. "It seems you're not very used to having such frequent holidays."
"The adults of Lescatie often put me in magic shows," Mimil admitted. "That's the only kind of fun I ever had, and that's because someone was there for me."
"Was it my big brother?" Nunnally's question made Mimil blush.
"I-It was someone I could call a big brother," the mage stuttered, recalling about Elt. "B-But it wasn't really like that."
"I see; it's a shame that we cannot be able to go into the Settlement," Nunnally lamented. "I'm sure we could've done a lot of nice things together."
"What about that girl Alice? Isn't she supposed to be your friend here in this world?"
"She is, but she is usually unavailable outside school hours. Mizuko is more available, even when she's out on Midgard at times."
"At times?" Mimil recalled Mizuko being absent for a while. "She has been here for a while. Shouldn't she be worried that her God would be worried about her?"
"Maybe," Nunnally just gave it some thought. "If anything, I'm more concerned about her safety here."
"W-What do you mean?"
"Well, Earth isn't usually a place for monster girls to just dwell around. Even if Agartha's safe, it's not like she can just walk around in Tokyo. Now that Kalika might be around, I worry if something would happen if we encountered something like those Apostles and even one of those Zenkor creatures."
"I suppose, and that turtle shell with her unusual hands and feet would make her stand out too much."
"Yes, and although if someone attacks her, my big brother worries it could cause something like a hurricane or a tsunami to hit Japan."
"That can happen, even here!?" Mimil said in surprise.
"It could, according to my big brother," Nunnally nodded. "Even if there aren't any monster girls around, the sea itself could rise to defend her. So he has been cautious to ensure her safety to avoid such an outcome."
"Why would he let a girl that dangerous near you?"
"Well, my brother was confident that Mizuko and I would get along."
"Say, how did you and that Umi Osho ever become friends?" Mimil's question made Nunnally notice. "You say that she's harmless, and I won't deny it, but your first encounter with her couldn't have gone that easy. Were you ever scared that she would…you know, make you one of them?"
"Mizuko isn't like that at all," Nunnally explained. "She was scared of me for a time, but over time and with some patience, she warmed up to me, and we became friends."
"Well, you sure had a smoother encounter with such a girl, I can tell you that," Mimil snarked. "At least it was better than mine."
"Ah?" Nunnally sensed some hostility coming from Mimil. "Did something bad happen to you when you were an Order Hero?"
"A Baphomet nearly defiled me," Mimil admitted. "If it were for your brother, who knows what would've happened to me."
"Did she try to do something she thought would help?" Nunnally asked. "By big brother often told me how even the Radical Faction monsters lead by that woman Druella always think they're doing things for the best of people's interests. Maybe she thought she was trying to help you."
"Well, she did say that I always acted like a grownup," Mimil fumed, recalling the last words the Baphomet Lucella told her before Zero knocked her out. "I can't see why she would think that. What's wrong with being so mature?"
"Well, you sound like a child to me," Nunnally heard Mimil's silence before apologizing. "I'm sorry, it's just that I don't usually pout as you do. I'm just fine even without anyone rely on."
"Is that why people treat me like a child?" Mimil protested, stomping a foot on the ground.
"I can't say, but is it wrong to enjoy being young while you can? You are indeed younger than me, but is it so bad to be a child?"
"I," Mimil stopped at a loss for words.
Mimil resented being called a child, that was true, but deep down, she wanted to enjoy all of the things children her age would've indulged. She tried to play with other children and have fun, but her talent in magic forced her to grow up and lived by everyone's expectations. Mimil didn't know it, but being a child caused her to remember the things she had been denied enjoying, so she grew to resent being called a child to block out those thoughts.
"I can't, even if I wanted to."
"That's too bad," Nunnally said, visibly saddened. "But maybe you can on some level?"
"What do you mean?"
"I'm sure there's something we could figure out," Nunnally proposed. "To start, we could always have you practice being an actual magical girl. I know you don't have that much interest, but it definitely should help."
"I'm not so sure," Mimil wanted to turn it down. She had watched several magical girl series after the first one, including ones that came before the occupation. They included a team of soldiers in sailor uniforms with a planet theme, a young girl around her age who used cards for her powers, and three Magic Knights who went off to save another world. Yet, each one of them felt alien to her. "I've already seen so many of those shows, and I still don't understand how that makes me a magical girl! All I have is the title the bishops gave me upon becoming Hero!"
"Maybe Mizuko could help us," Nunnally wanted to propose they investigate more with the books that her brother read upon entering Midgard. Mizuko told her about how the shows related to how the Sabbath's witches did things like them. Unfortunately, she was instructed not to reveal much, probably because of the vulgarity that didn't leave much to share. "If anything, it should give you a better idea of how it works."
"Uh, yeah. If you say so."
"That reminds me," Nunnally spoke as if she had another idea. "There's a place where we can go. It's a place Havi takes me when my big brother is not around for a long time."
"I assume it's somewhere in Agartha?" Mimil assumed.
"Actually, it's one of the Realms."
"One of the Realms?" the mage jumped at that statement. "I thought that all the other Realms were destroyed besides Midgard."
"The original civilizations were," Nunnally admitted. "But there's a place Havi secretly takes me that's perfect for us. Maybe we'll find something for you, like a new wand or something."
"Can you really find me something like that?"
"Well, anything is possible considering how unexplored these worlds are. I'm sure that my big brother is also having trouble figuring out something for you, so maybe this can be an opportunity?"
Mimil thought about it. It was true that everyone was getting new weapons to prepare for the coming conflict against Kalika and her followers. Among the girls, it appeared that hers was the last and the most difficult. Maybe it had to do with her age, whether Lelouch wanted her to spend time with Nunnally outside of combat or didn't want children fighting at all. But ever since meeting Nunally, she was encouraged to do, especially after her near loss against Lucella.
"Well, I'm sure it will be better than hanging out around here," Mimil admitted. "Never mind wanting to see new places. At least I won't be bored."
"Then it's settled," Nunnally clasped her hands with joy. "I'll tell Havi to bring Mizuko along with us."
"You don't say," Mimil snarked while putting up a straight face.
Elsewhere in another corner of Japan, the main dojo of the JLF was crowded once more this afternoon. Unlike the previous meeting, this one was reserved only for key personnel. Katase, Kusakabe, and Tohdoh were there naturally, but four other individuals with officer ranks surrounded the latter.
"The Blood of the Samurai has been hit!?"
General Katase took note of the battle that happened yesterday. Although the JLF was the largest anti-Britannian resistance group in Area 11, the Blood of the Samurai had a significant presence in Central Japan. The fact they took action against such a powerful group showed how aggressive their response has become.
"Were there any survivors?" Katase asked, but Kusakabe shook his head.
"No, sir. We have confirmation that the leaders were captured, and the rest of their followers were wiped out."
"But we have confirmation that new Knightmare Frame models were key to their victory?"
"That is correct, sir."
The JLF knew about the attack thanks to the media spectacle Clovis made of the assault. With that in mind, many personnel wondered how much was real or a fabrication to make the occupation government look good. Checking with their sources, the JLF had confirmed what they saw was real. The Britannians had a special squad of Knightmare Frames possessing seventh-generation machines, each on par with the white Knightmare Frame seen in Shinjuku.
"It's going to be a matter of time before Britannia begins mass-producing them," one JLF officer wearing glasses commented.
"Calm down," Katase tried to keep control of the emotions in the room among his troops. "That would be months away at most."
"With all respect, sir, what do we have to match them?"
"We only have the five new Type-1RC Burai Kai units, but I am uncertain if they can match Britannia's new machines," a glasses-wearing officer reported. "I believe we'll need more to combat the Britannians should they begin mass production."
"Ohgi's group still has some Sutherlands," Katase recalled. "I also hear that Kyoto should be finishing the Guren-Mk II."
"That is what Kyoto gave us, in addition to them being ones who gave the Blood of the Samurai those Sutherlands through Kyoto," another officer among those surrounding Tohdoh reported. He was the oldest of the group with balding white hair, black eyes, and a lump on his forehead. He was Ryouga Senba, one of the four Captains composed of Tohdoh's Four Holy Swords.
"Any chance they gave Kyoto any details on that white Knightmare Frame seen in Shinjuku?" Katase said with one hand on his chin.
"Nothing yet came back from our contact."
"Couldn't we ask them for more information?" Katase asked. "From what we heard from Ohgi's group, this white Knightmare Frame has capabilities far beyond what we've encountered before."
"That is what the reports say, which was also seen during the monster attack at Shinjuku," Kusakabe recalled. Nonetheless, the Colonel sweated a bit when sharing the info. "However, while they had enemy air and artillery support, the majority of the operation was done by a team of four Sutherlands."
"Only four!?" Katase's eyes shifted to the eyes, clenching his fists. "Never thought they were so incompetent, even with better weaponry."
"With all due respect, sir, it wasn't just a simple attack," a woman with short brunette hair and grey eyes defended. She was Nagisa Chiba, the only female among the Four Holy Swords who was the closest to the Lieutenant Colonel. "These weren't just simple Sutherlands who laid waste to an entire force. The survivors say they were superhuman, with weapons they claimed to be like magic."
"You call things like that magic?" Another bespectacled officer with dark green hair and a scar on the right side of his face muttered. He was Shogo Asahina of the Four Holy Swords.
"I know it's unbelievable, Captain, but every source we've spoken to has mentioned the same thing," Kusakabe said.
"I would've labeled such sources unreliable, but some of those have been our best contacts," Katase said as he contemplated their options. "Then there was the video we saw of that creature."
"Sir, what should we do about Zero's followers?" Kusakabe asked. "Even now, they're throwing the Britannians into chaos. There's also the fact one of them wields a katana with crimson red metal!"
"Crimson red metal?" the mention caught the ears of the last member of the Holy Swords. He was a man with short and spiky dark blue hair named Kousetsu Urabe. "Isn't that the legendary metal that was thought to be a myth?"
"I heard that one, too," Chiba admitted. "But the possibility of it being an Emperor's Regalia is none."
"Then how else could you explain someone using a sword to cut down enemy Knightmares?" Urabe joked back. "Of course, one must wonder how they managed to get it."
"That's enough," the Lieutenant Colonel commanded his subordinates. "High speculation isn't getting us anywhere. We have to keep ourselves together no matter how chaotic the situation is."
"Help them, Tohdoh!" Kusakabe demanded the lower-ranked officer. "This is the perfect chance for us, the Japanese Liberation Front, to make our stand! If we wait too long, we'll miss our chance!"
"There's even a rumor going on that Kyoto's willing to give the new Guren Mk. II to Zero for his achievements," Senba agreed. "With how things are going, we must not remain idle for long."
"Calm down, everyone," Tohdoh ordered even the Colonel with Katase's approval, who signed in return. "We haven't even confirmed if Kyoto's going to send the Guren to Zero and his group. Relying too much on myths and legends coming to life may only turn out costly for us."
"But-" Kusakabe wanted to object, only to be shot down by his superior officer.
"That's enough, Colonel," General Katase ordered. "Tohdoh is right. Until we know what's going on, we cannot make a move just yet. As much as I hate to admit it, we'll have to sit out for now."
While Tohdoh remained silent, content with such an answer, the other officers weren't as accepting. The Four Holy Swords and other officers were disgruntled over the inaction allowing other factions to grow below them. Others like Kusakabe had more extreme reasons, mainly for wasting their chances to strike back at Britannia. To them, something had to be done before the JLF was undoubtedly finished.
Back on Svartalheim, Lelouch and his party reached the trading post he had mentioned. It was surrounded by a tall metallic wall standing two hundred feet tall with a transparent dome over the rest of it. As they approached, they saw a pair of dark elf guards armed with what appeared to be a hybrid between a sword and rifle.
Their armor encased their bodies to protect them from the poisoned air, but their helmets had a transparent faceplate allowing their visages to be seen.
"More traders?" The guard asked dismissively.
"Yes," Lelouch answered. "My companions and I have brought wares to offer."
"Alright," the dark elf replied coldly yet professionally. "You know our rules, abide by them, and you may trade."
"Of course," Lelouch said before the second guard wordlessly opened the gates allowing them to enter.
Wilmarina and the others said nothing, but it was unnerving, to say the least, because of how cold the dark elves seemed to be.
Upon entering the gate, the doors closed behind them after a hissing sound could be heard, causing Alameria and Primera to alert.
"Relax, they are merely clearing the chamber and purifying the air before we are allowed in," Lelouch explained before anyone did anything rash.
The streets of the town were alive with activity, aside from many buildings and structures being identical. However, many tents lined the streets with different merchants and traders operating them. A large number of dark elves roamed the streets, as did dwarves. Aside from identical buildings, magical runes were craved upon the structures and metal pipes running up their sides.
"This is opposite from what we've seen outside," Alameria commented.
"I did mention they have been having a population boom," Lelouch said as he and the others tried to navigate through
"How do you tell which building is what?" Wilmarina asked as she inspected the buildings from a distance.
"Sometimes, a different trader occupies some of these buildings," Lelouch said. "None of them will have any markings, and what is inside depends on which trader."
"So, where are we going then?" Koyoi inquired.
"A specific trader who is here every day," Lelouch said as he pointed to one building on the far side of the town.
"What makes this trader special?" Primera inquired.
"I've had more success dealing with her. Many of these traders can be difficult to negotiate."
After navigating through the crowds, Lelouch and his group reached their destination. A pair of armed guards stood outside, but upon seeing Lelouch, he exchanged a nod with one of the guards before he was allowed in. The interior was spacious, with shelves full of materials and resources, including a rare trinket or two. A large round table was in the room's center, where a female elf with long blonde hair and red eyes sat. She wore black and purple robes trimmed with gold wearing gold necklaces and rings to signify her wealth.
"Ah, Lelouch, it's wonderful to see you again," the dark elf greeted.
"Lady Tuuserail," Lelouch said politely. "My friends, this is Lady Ellifain Tuuserail, one of the wealthiest traders among her people and the most well-connected among the ruling classes."
"Yes, and Lelouch has been a wonderful customer. Thanks to him, we have managed to obtain a healthy amount of goods from Earth and other resources from which we have been cut off for centuries. Though I see that you're here on a very sudden occasion."
"I won't be surprised," the exiled prince was unaffected by the elf's words, which gave off a shaking vibe. "But things have taken a turn, and I need whatever I can get from you to fulfill my goals."
"And you happened to bring a bunch of your friends along," the dark elf watched over the various companions. "You do not plan to rob me here, do you? Not only am I capable of protecting myself, but I doubt you'll get far."
"I'm simply giving whatever I could find and what my world provided," Lelouch accepted. "There's nothing too special about it."
"Nonsense," the dark elf lady pressed. "It's been a while since we had certain fruit come to our Realm. Idun apples are quite a luxury nowadays, as well as highly refined ore of incredible quality."
"Idun apples?" Wilmarina questioned.
"They're apples made by the ancient god Idun," Lelouch explained. "They say that tasting these apples reverses aging and allows even Gods to retain their youth. People throughout the realms found this a rare but luxurious item, but our old friend managed to grow a few trees of these back on Earth."
"So you've been giving them apples to trade?" Wilmarina asked.
"Not just apples, but useful materials like Svartalheim Steel and Mithril."
"Such materials are hard to come by, which brings me to question why are you here today?" Tuuserail inquired with a questioning expression. "You usually come by every six months, so this is earlier than normal?"
"On the contrary, this is something that must be done secretly," Lelouch reached into his bag. "To start, I'm here to give you this."
Lelouch brought out a decently sized box. He then opened it to show a dark brown glass container. Inside was a glowing blue substance that was bright enough to illuminate the room. The very presence of it caused the dark elf to rise from her seat and walk back, even when Lelouch carefully placed it on her desk.
"By Asgard," Tuuserail exclaimed and shook her head. "Where did you get this!?"
"I've been practicing with producing the substance these past few years," Lelouch shared. "I'll admit that it's not the original, and the quality is comparably shoddy. But it's decent enough to get started."
"What is that glowing substance?" Paula asked, blinded by the substance.
"It's what they call Eitr," Wilmarina explained. "It's a toxic life-giving substance that's incredibly valuable in the nine realms."
"A toxic life-giving substance? Do you mean a poison creates things? How does that work?"
"I don't know. It was used to create some of the first living creatures in history, including the beast called Ymir. But I don't think that's the point here."
"This substance also exists as a power source and, when depleted, hydraulic fluid for ancient machines. As an energy source, it was one of the energy-substances in existence."
"More than even Sakuradite?" Koyoi asked.
"Indeed, but rather than radioactivity, touching it in its active form can easily sink into the skin and kill you. You must take extreme care when handling it."
"Even in its fake form?" Primera inquired. "I'm sure I heard you say that isn't the real deal."
"Not exactly, no," Lelouch withheld nothing. "Because natural Eitr is impossible to find at the moment, we have to make do with an artificial imitation of the substance. It's nowhere near the same performance as the original kind, but it's something we can use when you need it in large quantities. Even so, it has extreme value to them."
"Your offer of this must mean you must have something crucial you want to ask me?" The dark elf questioned, examining the box.
"I'm here to make a special request," Lelouch insisted. "This requires something you have, which I need for the coming battles ahead, but only once we have a safe place to talk."
The dark elf looked around to see if anyone was listening or heard anything Lelouch said to her. Once she was confident that no one eavesdropped on their conversation, she faced Lelouch again and signaled him.
Lady Tuuserail, alongside a man who was her bodyguard, led the group to a hallway in the back. The dark elf led the group into a windowless room with chairs and a table. Primera and Koyoi noticed the runes graved upon the doorframe outside the room.
"It will be safer here," Lady Tuuserail said before gesturing to her bodyguard. "I trust he won't be a problem?"
"Not at all," Lelouch replied with a nod.
"Tell me of what that you request," Tuuserail spoke with a sharp tongue. "Whatever you want from me may as well be worth it."
"I need the location of a special place on this realm," Lelouch went to the point. "A place called Helldunkel?"
The dark elf's eyes went wide upon the boy's demands. Never did she expect to want something rare yet sensitive info.
"How did you know about that?" Lady Tuuserail questioned before realizing her slip of the tongue mistake she had made.
"So you do know of this location," Lelouch deducted. "As one of the top merchants, and with its nonexistence on the maps, I am not surprised."
"No, but I need have what you need to find the location. I'll admit that you are very keen on finding this place, but I doubt you'll like what you'd find there unless it's for a good reason."
"Helldunkel?" Primera became attracted to the conversation. "What is that?"
"A place here on Svartalheim," Lelouch answered. "Because of its nature and history, the place is kept secret even during the events of Ragnarok."
"Why would it be so important?" Paula asked, which Tuuserail took over.
"Because that place holds many secrets," Tuuserail answered. "Particularly, one we swore to protect and never give out unless facing great calamity."
"What kind of secret?" Wilmarina inquired. "I assume it's a weapon?"
"More than just a weapon," Lelouch answered. "It's a village where elves, both dark and light, and the dwarves coexisted to create powerful weapons of destruction. Their greatest project is rumored to be stored there."
"The Staltalnr project," Tuuserail insisted that's what Lelouch inferred. "With a combination of the dwarves' industrial might, the light elves' knowledge of magic, and the dark elves' understanding of both, they for once set aside their differences to create something that could take on more than just Kalika's armies."
"Which is exactly why we must go there," Lelouch insisted. "We must go there to acquire whatever they kept for the future battles ahead."
"And why would these battles be so important to you?"
"Because Kalika is alive," Lelouch's words made the dark elf and her guard. He expected this reaction, but he pressed on, also hoping they would go into disbelief. "I know you find this insane, but we were just attacked by one of her creatures, something that only she could create. If you want proof, there's what I have."
Before she could speak, Lelouch showed a mirror of the Zenkor attack on Shinjuku. Her eyes and body proved that she was more than shaken as the creature of black flesh tore through everything in its path, civilian and military and alike. Even when the mirror ended the visual with Lelouch and the others taking down the creature, the merchant was at a loss for words. Lelouch knew that despite their arrogance, even dark elves would succumb to the truth about something, especially if it threatened them as well.
"So it has come to this," Tuuserail admitted. "Many of us knew that Kalika would rise once more, but never like this."
"Which is exactly why we must head to Helldunkel as soon as possible," Lelouch pressed. "You must have something that'll help us find it. A map no one knows or something."
"Not a map, no," the dark elf corrected. "What you need is something special. Once you use it, you'll already know its exact location."
"You're talking about the Singasteinn."
"Indeed, I am."
"The Singasteinn?" Paula inquired.
"It's a special stone that's on this land, near where the underground city was built," Lelouch explained. "It's enormous, the size of a small island or skerry, but it's sealed off from all but the most elite and important members of dark elf society."
"And you are lucky that I'm one of the people who have direct access to the stone," Tuuserail said with a scowl. "Not many merchants know of its location, let alone access to it."
"Must be a highly-guarded secret then," Paula remarked.
"It is," Lelouch confirmed. "Because with a special song, you can find what you seek. You can say it's a massive tablet of knowledge that can even share knowledge of the future."
"Well, it's no wonder it would be reserved for the elites so much," Primera remarked. "So what we do now?"
"Do not be a fool," Tuuserail warned. "Even though the stone holds great knowledge, it can only be used by a certain race that has some familiarity with its magic. Besides, even though I can use it, you must be or have someone who can share this info, and I'm not the type to freely go outside like you are."
Just like the Statues of Wisdom back on Midgard, Wilmarina made a note based on what she read from the Wandering Scholar's books.
"That's not a concern," Lelouch assured. "I have some knowledge of the stone's magic based on what I read, and if I can't use it, I luckily brought someone who might."
"Oh really?" Tuuserail noticed one of Lelouch's companion's turning away. Primera hummed away with a haughty look on her side. "You must have quite a companion then."
"Don't be too judgmental of her. She's more capable than she looks. Besides, she doesn't take kindly to others."
"Is that a threat?" the dark elf narrowed her eyes.
"No, just something to be careful of to avoid things going south."
"Very well, I'll keep that in mind."
"I appreciate it," Lelouch sighed. "Just a matter of time it'll take for us to reach the stone."
"Just wait for me here at the end of the day," she instructed. "I'll have everything ready for you soon enough."
The meeting room at Eden Vital's cathedral was quiet once again. The Cardinal himself was the sole occupant while watching over the other members at the table. This time, the only ones at the meeting were the second, third, ninth, and tenth members.
"Any word from Alicia yet?" The ninth Apostle inquired.
"With all due respect, we cannot be everywhere at the same time," the Cardinal replied. "Our resources are spread too thin, and we are a little too occupied with current matters."
"Matters that are partly under your responsibility," Gorchov shot back. "If anything, you should dedicate more of your resources towards protecting our secrets than risking everyone's neck!"
"The Goddess herself wouldn't be pleased if it comes to that," the Inari blew smoke in the background of her projection. "Even you will not escape her wrath, especially as her closest ally."
"Keep in mind that I have been serving the Goddess of Destruction long before even you, Yuujo-sama," the Cardinal replied with her honorific. "She has put my trust in me in even the most questionable of circumstances. If anything, Lady Alicia should be the one in most trouble since she's the one doing anything reckless."
"You," Gorchov glared.
"That's enough, Paladin," the leader of the group talked him down before it erupted into a fight. "We already know that she's established herself on the world of Earth. My sources more than confirm that even without her reporting directly to us. The Zenkor attack in Shinjuku is more than obvious."
"But to make an attack so public to the natives," Gorchov cursed. "If Midgard manages to find out the existence of such creatures-"
"It will be beneficial," the Cardinal countered. "The Zenkor are creatures that are more ancient than monsters of old. No, they existed long before even that, so they would rather bring fear to both the monsters as well as the Order. Not to mention, it will be additionally beneficial to us once the next steps are taken, and the newest projects come to fruition."
"Newest projects?" The leader became intrigued.
"Allow me to let you in on a secret," the Cardinal went on. "Several projects have been progressing thanks to the new funds and resources provided by the other Order states. Everything is progressing just as planned and even beyond schedule. I won't spoil what's in store just yet, but I can assure you that their debut will rekindle faith in the Order along with undermining our enemies. That's why we have spent much of our time and resources guarding our secrets than pursuing a rouge Apostle causing havoc for the other side."
"Your projects better be worth it," the Inari named Yuujo warned before chuckling. "The Goddess may put full trust in you, so you must ensure the results are given as she intended."
"I'll be sure that they live to your expectations then."
"Very well," the leader started to adjourn the meeting. "I'll deal with the issue with Alicia while the others continue as they please. If there's nothing left, I believe the resolution has been set."
The virtual projections vanished with the meeting over. The Cardinal's room lit itself again as the tables lowered back into the floor. The Cardinal then returned to his desk, taking the Apostle Dagger from its slot before turning his chair.
"You can come in now, Chancellor."
Endra opened the door as if he expected his leader to notice his presence.
"Sorry for the intrusion," the Chancellor said sarcastically, placing his cane on the ground. "I just couldn't help but listen to the latest news first hand."
"We're partners-in-crime, Chancellor. We've been together long enough that we share all the details after events have passed."
"Yet, you're always doing things on your own time. You know well how I'm always curious about everything."
"In any case," the Cardinal placed the dagger on the desk before turning around. "How are the projects coming about?"
"Which one would you like to start?" Endra inquired, mainly to know where to start rather than play mischievous tricks.
"First is the Sanjavar Project," the Cardinal decided after some thought.
"The prototype was completed long ago, Your Excellency. She's been running around the ruins, apparently starting a cult of her own."
"She's growing more independent than I thought," the Cardinal inferred. "Yet, it looks like the objectives we sought are successful at the moment."
"The more followers she possesses, the more resources we acquire."
"So long as she doesn't get too much attention," the Cardinal agreed as she moved on. "What about the Hell Lord project?"
"The plan is ready for your review. All we need now is a good subject for the experiment."
"I'll figure that one out soon enough. You should give me the plans by tomorrow morning."
"Why I brought the plans with me right here," Endra brought forward a set of scrolls. "You can look at them at any time."
"Very well. And finally, the Staltalnr?"
The last one made Endra paused, making his mood sour for a moment.
"Despite our Apostle friend making off with the Rod, I've been continuing our research into the machines. Honestly, pure mechanical aspects were never my type."
"Fortunately, we made the right allies in the other world," the Cardinal commented. "The one I made to be standing leader has helped us significantly to understand their power."
"That's exactly why you made him the acting leader, I assume?" Endra asked politely.
"You have a keen eye," the Cardinal complemented. "On the face, and traditionally, the leader among us isn't the one with the first Apostle Weapon or the most leadership qualities. Rather, it's the one who contributes to Kalika's cause the most, and his expertise has done well to increase the power of the Apostles."
"Speaking of the Staltalnr," Endra brought up. "Are you sure that it was okay to leave that place in its current state? If it were me, I would've destroyed the entire place to ensure nothing remained."
"I obtained what I needed, and the damage was more than enough," the Cardinal assured. "I long since laid a trap for those still alive, let alone those who dared to enter. Besides, if someone ever obtained something, it's useless to them."
"Even with the other prototype still there?"
"We've come a long way to improve their power, let alone understand them. Even if he managed to find us, even if the weapons are still good, it's nothing but an obsolete relic."
"Very well then," Endra tipped his hat to the Cardinal. "I'll continue the research as intended.
"Yes," the Cardinal said as the meeting came to an end. "We'll continue our discussion tomorrow once we have contacted our wayward troublemaker."
Elsewhere in Midgard, as the shadowy visages of the other Apostles vanished, one of them vented his growing frustrations.
"That infernal aberration," a man with short yet feminine dark magenta hair and orange-green eyes slammed his right fist on his desk, holding the Apostle Blunt on the other. He was a man with a gold knight's breastplate, vambraces, and chausses belonging to the Order of the Chief God as presented by the crosses around it. "Who does he think he is, using us like this?"
The young girl with the Apostle Ringblade came in with her brother. She had long brown twin tails and green eyes that twitched to show her nervousness. Her twin brother was beside him, having short dark blue hair and green eyes, having a much calmer personality, and wielding the Apostle Shield on his right arm.
Paladin Wilhelm Gorchov turned to his fellow Apostles as they awaited orders. In actuality, they felt more formal as the brother didn't care much, while the younger girl wanted more of the man's approval.
"The Cardinal of Eden Vital is pushing things far too much nowadays," the Paladin stood up to children placed his hands on his desk. "We need to act ourselves before he ends up taking full control of things."
"What happens to the Order or the Cardinal means little to us," the brother with Apostle Shield by his side. "We follow you, no matter what you say."
"I don't take kindly to that much," Gorchov gave his opinion before see the shaken girl. From there, he softened up a bit. "However, I appreciate the loyalty you give, no matter what the other says to you."
"W-We just don't what we can to help you, father," the younger girl shared. "You were the ones who saved us, so we wanted to do what it took to help."
"Your words are more than enough," Gorchov went to the young girl place a hand on her shoulder, giving her a blush. The twin brother remained cautious as he turned to him. "However, the time for joy is going to be over soon. We will have to make a move, even while things are going awry."
"Whatever it takes, father," the brother said with a stern look. "Depending on what you have in mind."
"I certainly ha e something in mind," the Paladin took a book about various artifacts, mainly those involving Lescatie. "I have a task that, while risky regarding our roles as acting Apostles, will help give us the leverage we need to restrain the Cardinal."
"What will that be, Mr. Gorchov?" the female twin asked.
"This right here," Gorchov opened to a page referring to something called the God's Tear. "From what we know, it still hasn't been found by the monsters, even with the entire civilization fallen from grace. I would like you to conduct an operation to retrieve it for me so that we can gain some kind of standing better than what is now."
"Sure you don't want us to go alone," the brother sensed something else in relation.
"Of course not," Gorchov assured. "There's a specific adventurer's guild I have in mind, one that includes a mercenary with decent knowledge of the Realm. As a warrior of the Order, she'll be well suited for the task ahead. Bring her and the others to me so that they can be aware of the details."
"Of course, sir," the brother replied.
"Era, Efterra," the third Apostle turned to the female and male twin, respectively. "I expect great things from you. I take it that you will never disappoint me."
"Of course, we won't, Mr. Gorchov!" Era Liba grasped onto their foster father while her twin Efterra grabbed hold of her shirt.
"We'll report to you after everything is done," the brother assured as they turned around, leaving for the task ahead of them.
"Very well," Gorchov gave a heartful moment as the twins headed off. "May the Chief God still protect you."
A/N: Another chapter done, Lelouch is seeking a weapon to give him an edge against Knightmare Frames to even the odds until he gains the facilities to make his own, or gains Kyoto's support in that regard.
It was my goal to begin preparing for events to happen on MGE while Lelouch is doing his own thing. Besides that, I was trying to give Primera and Alameria a little more screen time to explore their characters a little more while preparing some character development scenes for the other characters in Lelouch's group.
Anyway, thank you all for reading, and I thank you in advance for the reviews and feedback. I'll be looking forward to the updates on the Tv Tropes page since it's not quite update too.
See you guys next chapter.