Arc I : Nagazora
Chapter 3: First Contact
Rita Rossweisse, future leader of 2nd Schicksal Investigation Team, simply known as the invincible maid. The adjutant of Durandal stood before him with her ever present smile, scythe carried within her hands. Adam swallowed, mouth and throat suddenly dry. He was a B-rank Valkyrja, perhaps a low A-rank if he believed Mei, but she had always been generous. Rita was a S ranked Valkyrja, someone far beyond his skill level.
He had fought her numerous times in the future. Whenever she came to the academy to give a demonstration or as a guest speaker, he would try to find time to challenge the maid. Each match had only lasted a handful of minutes, Rita slowly pouring more strength into her attacks as the fight went on. She had always toyed with him from the beginning, only finishing the match when she had grown bored. In short Adam knew he was outclassed.
"If I knew this was a masquerade I would have dressed appropriately." Rita gave a melodious laugh before him. "Would you like to perhaps share your name or take off your mask?" The tone was light and sweet, as if her honeyed question was merely passing curiosity instead of an interrogation. It was a trick she used often, many times to great effect. Her uniform certainly helped sell the image. Adam however knew better.
"I'll have to pass," He replied with narrowed golden eyes. Adam mentally tried to figure out a way out of this mess. Rita probably wouldn't kill him, only neutralize him much like the guards outside. However she would more than likely bring his identity back to Otto and that was out of the question. Perhaps he could grab the box and run? No, Rita would be on him in an instant. Ignorant of Adam's internal debate Rita continued.
"Oh my, it seems like I have a rude guest." Rita placed a hand to her lips, a faux shock taking over her expression. Her expression slowly melted into a smile, the sinister glint in her eye gleaming brighter. "As a maid, it is my duty to clean up such slovenly behavior and beat it out of them."
Even as she finished speaking, Adam was already moving. He raised his blade and a split second later, the harsh echo of grinding steel rang out through the room. His bones vibrated as sword braced against scythe in a struggle of strength. He was pushed away and Adam tried to disengage from the fight, taking a leap back. She followed, a flurry of slashes trying to find their mark. He dodged what he could, blocking the rest. Each collision sent sparks into the air and he could only move back, weathering Rita's relentless assault. However, each step pushed him further and further to the wall. Soon he would be cornered. He needed to tip the scales.
With the squeeze of the trigger the Labor of Olympus came alive, flooding his body with Honkai energy. The next time sword and scythe met he held, refusing to budge and then with a grunt he pushed forward. Rita finally began to give ground and Adam pressed his advantage. Now Adam was on the attack, sending a barrage of stabs and slices at Rita. She weaved through them expertly, like a fairy dancing among fluttering petals. Finally their weapons locked once again and he could see the excitement in Rita's eyes, the smile across her lips. Perhaps he was the first to give her an actual fight in a long time.
Their exchanges continued, each fighter trying to grasp their opponent's weakness. A waltz of flashing blades and clashing steel, a shower of sparks erupting with each collision. Each step was just as important as the next. Timing was everything in this wordless dance, each participant giving it their all. After all, a single misstep would have much larger repercussions than a crushed toe.
"Your form is magnificent," Rita laughed as Adam managed to dodge another slice. "But I believe we should end this now." Her form blurred as she surged forward, scythe scraping across the ground. Adam leapt into the air to dodge only to realize his error too late. The curved blade came around for a second swing, one that was impossible to dodge. At least impossible to dodge normally.
He collected Honkai energy to his feet and leapt off the air, performing a double jump. Rita's smile turned to genuine shock as she overextended, scythe empty of its prey. He landed, driving a fist into her gut. She gasped as she staggered back, though to her credit she recovered fast enough to block his next strike. Adam kept up his assault, giving her no time to recover.
Something was wrong, different from normal. Rita's moves were the same, her current style mirrored that of her future self. Yet he was pushing her back, forcing her onto the defensive.
She was slower, Adam realized, and weaker. Her attacks no longer held the sharp edge he remembered. Had the Honkai energy really made him that much stronger? No, Adam realized, it was the opposite. She was weaker, a mere shadow of her future self. Rita no longer had the gap of fifteen years of experience that had once separated them.
She may have still been S rank, but he knew her moves like the back of his hand. Her tactics, her combat style, how she would feint. He knew how to fight her. Furthermore he had Honkai energy boosting his body, increasing his strength and speed. To someone who had fought Rita in her prime, the girl he faced now was only a rough copy. He could beat her, he could win. With that thought he soldiered on, it was time to finish this.
This couldn't be happening. Rita's attack was swatted away as the figure parried, only to shift into a stab which she narrowly dodged. Had he been playing with her in the beginning? Rita could have sworn that she heard fear in her opponent's voice just before the battle began, seen the terror in his golden orbs. Yet as the battle progressed the man had grown more confident, slowly but surely beginning to outpace her. Another strike impacted on the handle of her scythe and this time she stepped back to bear the weight. How was he so strong?
She disengaged, hoping to use her weapon's reach to her advantage, but the figure swung his weapon and tongues of fire appeared to chase her. The flames lashed out, hot and hungry, and only instinct saved her as she dropped to the ground. The heat kissed the back of her outfit as it roared over her and she quickly twisted away as the masked man stuck where she had been only moments before.
Her breath came in pants and she could feel the beads of sweat forming on her face. Her muscles screamed as she swung again, and she knew she would be sore the following day. But despite all of this she couldn't keep the smile from her lips.
Finally there was someone she could push herself against. Someone to keep pace with her. There were only two S-rank Valkyrja within Schicksal that had a chance against her. Durandul, who barely considered fighting her squadron a warm up, and Theresa, who spent her time running a school. There was no one else that could match her prowess on the battlefield, no one to push her past her limits. And if there was anything a maid feared more than failure it was stagnation.
Thus finding someone who could keep pace with her was fascinating. Every opening she attacked was blocked. Every move she made was predicted. Every feint was ignored. It was as if this mysterious man had fought her countless times and yet she knew she had never met him. His style wasn't recognizable, and his blade was certainly one of a kind. The mystery both intrigued and excited her. Who this man was and why he was here were practically secondary. Her only thought was how she could recruit this man to Schicksal, so she could fight him again.
Perhaps that is what distracted her. He raised his weapon for a downward smash and she raised her scythe to block. In her haste she didn't realize his second attack until her legs were swept from under her. Her lack of balance was all he needed to hit her precious weapon away and as she collapsed to the ground, she heard it clattering in the distance. The glowing edge of his sword appeared at her throat and she gazed up to meet the stranger's golden eyes.
The second ticked by, the only sound between them was Rita's panting as she tried to regain her breath. Finally the man moved and, to her surprise, he moved the blade away and held out his hand. Hesitantly she took it, and was pulled up by his strong grip.
"I'm not your enemy nor Schicksal's." He said, his words soothing her panic. "I assume you are here to retrieve data on Anti-Entropy?" Rita nodded slowly, caught between the desire to run to her weapon and stand still to not aggravate the man. He must have noticed her expression as he stepped away from her to give her space.
"Get your weapon and do what you need." With that he turned and moved towards the display case he had been in front of before she found him. With a smash the tube shattered releasing the black cube within. Rita wrestled with her curiously momentarily before shaking her head and returning her focus to her own mission. Soon her weapon was back in her hands and a flash drive was slowly copying all the files it could from the Anti-Entropy lab. With a beep the transfer completed and Rita tore the drive from the socket.
"I'm done," Rita announced, looking back at the swordsman nodded, inserting his own storage device in the system. As the transfer took place Rita decided to press her luck. It would be prudent to gather any information she could about the mysterious man.
"May I ask your purpose in breaking into this facility?" The question filled the empty void between them. For a handful of seconds Rita thought her question would be ignored, however the man eventually answered.
"I acquired some information that the owner of this facility was trying to cause an artificial Honkai eruption." He shook his head in disgust. "I wanted to nip their operation in the bud, and send them a message." The computer beeped as the transfer finished. The man moved forward and pressed some more buttons. After a few more seconds all the screens in the lab began to display warning messages. "I sent a virus deep into their systems. They shouldn't be recovering for a while."
Rita considered the man for a few more moments before speaking. "It's clear that you are not allied with Anti-Entropy. Perhaps I could offer you a place at Schicksal, if you're interested." Rita was pleased to read the surprise that flickered across his face, brief as it was. She kept pushing hoping to catch his interest.
"With skills like yours, I can guarantee you'll be treated well. I will even make a recommendation myself if you would like. With you at our side, I am sure our overseer Otto could-" It was apparently the wrong thing to say. As soon as Otto's name left her lips, the man stiffened. His golden eyes hardened and the grip on his weapon tightened.
"I want nothing to do with that man," he hissed. Rita instinctively stepped back feeling the hate coming off him in waves. She wanted to ask about his hostility, but something else caught their attention. A cacophony of cries and roars rang out through the facility. "It seems we've overstayed our welcome. The Honkai Beasts have been released." The man growled before readying his blade.
"Wait!" The man made to leave before Rita stopped him. "I suggest we work together." At his uncertainty Rita continued. "We both have the same goal of escaping without getting caught. If we team up against the Honkai beasts, it will be easier to secure an exit. Furthermore we make a truce not to alert security."
The warrior considered the offer before nodding. "Very well. We leave together."
"Excellent," Rita smiled. "Now if you would give me your name we can get going." At the man's suspicious expression she elaborated. "Not your real name of course, you already refused that offer. If we are going to be partners, I need an epithet or nickname I can use to speak with you in battle, unless the name 'you' is good enough."
The reason for this was two fold. Her first reason wasn't a lie. A name would be a more effective communicator in battle. However, by having this stranger pick a name for himself, it revealed information about how they thought of themselves. In her time as a Valkyrja, she had had more than her fair share of impromptu allies. A majority chose names that reflected them. Shadow was a common choice among spies and assassins. Justice was another popular nickname. Thus Rita had asked the question hoping to learn a little more from this mysterious man.
"Prometheus." The man finally responded.
"Prometheus," Rita recited. "The god who tricked Zeus and stole fire for the whole of mankind. For his trickery, he was chained to a mountain where an eagle ate his liver every day only to have it regrow in the night. He is known as the champion of mankind and is synonymous with giving hope to humans and protecting them from the ever changing whims of the gods." The man's eyes widened and Rita couldn't hold back a laugh. "It is a beautiful name, I wonder how it relates to you."
"I think you're looking too deep into this." Prometheus responded after a moment. "It's just a name." More roars echoed from the halls. "Let's go, we can't afford to waste anymore time." The pair departed but Rita's mind was abuzz with excitement. Prometheus, someone who was willing to go through pain and suffering for the benefit of mankind. It was a beautiful sentiment, one she dearly hoped the man before her embodied.
Yes, she wanted to know more about this man.
Adam had very mixed feelings about working with Rita. On the plus side she was an extremely effective fighter, one that his style worked well with. He had little doubt that the two of them would be able to escape undetected. On the other side she worked for Schicksal or more accurately Otto himself. The more he revealed of himself to Rita the more Otto would know. And the more Otto knew the worse off Adam would be.
"Looks like we are up against three chariots and five archangels." Rita informed as she peeked around the corner. "I trust you can handle yourself, Prometheus?" Adam nearly rolled his eyes. The monsters in St. Fountain were leagues above basic Honkai beasts.
"There won't be any problems on my end." He replied, the Labor of Olympus already pulsing gently in his hand. "I can take the chariots, are you comfortable with the five archangels?"
"I appreciate your concern, but there is no need to worry," Rita laughed. "In fact, I will generously assist you once I finish my task." The female Valkyrja's eyes sparkled, her unspoken challenge bringing a smile to Adam's masked face.
"Don't bother," Adam smirked, accepting her declaration. "I'll be done long before you." Her eyes twinkled with laughter and her lips curved into a playful smile. If he closed his eyes, he could almost believe it was his Rita again. While the girl before him was not the kind, powerful S-rank from his future, she was certainly on the right track.
As one they leapt from cover, crossing the distance to the milling Honkai beasts in less than a second. Rita scythe came up, cleaving one of the angels in once smooth motion. Adam was attacking a moment after, sword digging deep into the first chariot. It screeched, a sea of flames erupting from its wound. Three more strikes and Adam leapt away as it dissolved into nothing. One down, two to go.
The second chariot bellowed, swinging at Adam with it's right fist outstretched. Adam dodged the impact, dirt and debris flung into the air as the monster missed its target. He made to counter but the second beast roared, the shockwave tossing Adam back. He slid to a stop examining his opponents. One was focusing on close range while the other would attack from a distance. He needed to strike the ranged unit first.
Adam rushed forward again, the edge of this sword glowing red hot. The first Chariot swung and this time Adam took to the air, double jumping over the creature. The second attempted to roar but Adam was too fast, driving the crimson blade into the creature. It shrieked and flailed wildly, but Adam refused to let up on his assault hacking it into submission. The beast collapsed from his barrage, leaving Adam with one last monster. It bellowed and Adam prepared to strike when it suddenly went still and crumpled. A smirking Rita appeared from behind it, ripping her weapon from the dissolving corpse.
"Well, that was a nice distraction," She said, making her way to Adam. "Shall we leave?" Adam was about to agree when a glint in the dim light caught his eye. He didn't even scream a warning as he sprinted forward. He tackled Rita to the ground, whipping his sword around to create a whirlwind of flame to surround them. Moments later ten spider bombs skittered from the surrounding darkness, charging at Adam's barrier with reckless abandon. They exploded on contact, the heat itself overloading their circuits.
Only when the explosion had finished did Adam notice his position. He was flush against the S-rank, their faces inches apart. Her wide eyes were staring into his and... was that a blush or was that just the dim red light playing tricks on him? He chased the distracting thought away with a shake of his head and quickly extracted himself from her.
"Are you all right?" He asked as she rose herself.
"I'm...fine." Rita responded a little breathlessly. "I suppose I owe you a debt of gratitude. If you hadn't protected me those spider bombs would have..." She trailed off leaving the rest unsaid. She reached up and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, a nervous tick Adam recognized from the future. It was this motion that brought his attention to her face.
"You're injured," Rita jumped at his statement, wide eyes returning to his. "On your left cheek."
"Ah," realization hit and she lightly brushed the small cut. "I suppose I was a little careless. The archangels were faster than expected. It will heal." Adam frowned, before stepping forward.
"I can heal it." Adam's natural stigma had the power to heal though it was rather limited in its usefulness. The process had him utilize Honkai energy to mend a wound. Due to this the injured party needed some form of Honkai resistance, if not they would become a zombie. Furthermore he could only heal small cuts and bruises, due to the small amount of Honkai energy he used in each treatment. Theoretically there was no limit of the energy he could use, but the last time he had been pumped full of energy… the experiment had ended in failure.
He shook the depressing thoughts away and held his hand over the wound. The familiar pink energy flowed to his fingers and danced around the wound. Soon it was sealed and the maid traced her healed cheek in wonder.
"I… You didn't need to go so far." Rita finally said. Adam only gave a careless shrug.
"We agreed to work together until we escaped the facility," he answered. "I was doing what any partner should do." The small smile that appeared on Rita's lips told him that she appreciated the gesture. "That being said I believe this is where our alliance comes to an end. I don't think there are any more traps present. I'll take my leave." He made it a few feet before Rita called to him.
"Will I see you again?" The question hung in the air as Adam considered his answer. Honestly it had been nice to see Rita. But as long as Otto was in power, involving himself with Rita would only bring misfortune. He could only shake his head.
"In your dreams." And with that he sprinted away from the lab and disappeared.
Einstein sighed as she scanned over another screen full of data. The aftermath of the attack on ME corp had been frustrating to deal with. While the attack itself hadn't affected the core workings of Anti-Entropy, Cocolia had nevertheless been furious. Not only had property been stolen, but the uploaded virus had destroyed years worth of data. Thus Einstein and Tesla had been tasked with restoring the system as best they could. It was tedious work, and frankly Einstein could think of several things that would be a better use of her time. Still it wouldn't do for internal strife to split Anti-Entropy down the middle, so here Tesla and Einstein were trying to revive the old data.
"Mophead." Einstein looked up at Tesla's 'affectionate' nickname for her. "You may want to look at this." She sighed but obliged, standing from her own terminal and walking to the waiting redhead. Tesla moved aside allowing Einstein access to her screen. Before her sat a sea of letters with no discernible order. Einstein massaged her temples, fighting the mounting frustration.
"What is this supposed to be?" She asked. "All I'm seeing is a jumble of random…" She trailed off refocusing on the screen. On second glance there was a discernible pattern. Her eyes roamed around the screen taking in everything before her. It was code, she realized. Some sort of message.
"You see it too, right?" Tesla asked. "I found this section of data tucked away in the corner of the network. I think the virus deposited it there when it struck. I was going to clear it away when I noticed the pattern." Einstein nodded along with the explanation. Anti-entropy wasn't a stranger to using codes and ciphers, and used a handful themselves when they wanted to transmit messages.
"Have you tried to decode it yet?' Einstein asked. The cipher looked rather simple, but that was the beauty of ciphers. A simple looking cipher could hold layers upon layers of complexity.
"I have," Telsa nodded. "Thankfully it was a cipher we use. It was easy to break once I got the pattern down. The decoder I had running should have finished by now." She quickly typed in a few commands causing a new screen to pull up. As Einstein read the message, her eyes widened at what she saw.
I apologize for contacting you in such a roundabout way. I intended this message for the two of you and not all of Anti-Entropy. I am the one who attacked ME corp and stole the black box that Cocolia desperately wants back. I hope the task of finding my message was not too difficult.
Please believe me when I say that I would never normally raise my hand against Anti-Entropy. Your goal and ideology resonate with me and I hold nothing but respect for your organization. However Cocolia crossed the line with her plans to create an artificial Honkai impact. When I learned of this, I knew I could not allow it to come to fruition. This is the reason I invaded the facility and I ask for your forgiveness in this matter.
However this brings forward another opportunity. I would like to offer my services to Anti-Entropy or more accurately to the two of you who still hold true to the original beliefs of the organization. If you are interested I have attached a location and time. I would be more than happy to discuss future arrangements then.
I understand it is hard to trust a stranger such as myself under these circumstances. Thus as a show of good faith, if you are to come to the meeting I promise to return the black box that I stole, regardless of whether you want my help or not.
Please think about my offer, and I hope to see you at the promised meeting.
Einstein was silent as she digested the contents of the letter. It was extremely worrying how much this individual knew about them and their organization. The person apparently knew that Tesla and her would be the ones to find the hidden letter. They knew about friction between the factions within Anti-Entropy and they even knew Cocolia led one faction while Tesla and her led the other.
What was most disturbing was that despite Anti-Entropy being a secret organization, they knew that they lacked manpower. Most of the time Anti-Entropy depended on machines for the majority of their tasks like fighting Honkai. But there were sensitive missions that mere machines couldn't complete. Tesla and Einstein desperately needed a personal agent that could not only investigate alone but keep themselves safe.
'What do you think?" Tesla asked, breaking the silence. Despite her air of indifference, Einstein knew Tesla was nervous. She probably had come to a similar conclusion as Einstein, this individual was not one to be trifled with. Einstein herself was torn on what to do. If the offer was genuine, this was an extremely beneficial opportunity for them. If it was a trap… well it was better to prepare for the worst scenario, just in case.
"I think we have to prepare to attend this meeting," Einstein said. "Prepare golems for instant transport and several self defense devices. I want to be sure that we can evacuate if this individual is hostile."
It was a risk Einstein admitted, but the reward was very very tempting.
Durandal considered herself relatively realistic. She knew that being a Valkyrja was a dangerous job and despite her massive strength took precautions in every mission to stay safe. She knew that even with all her hard work, more Honkai would keep appearing. Most importantly, she knew that the fairy tales about two warriors meeting and falling in love on the battlefield were just that, fairy tales. Thus as Rita described her latest mission, Durandul couldn't bring herself to believe a word.
"And then when I asked him if I would see him again, he turned to me with that dashing smile and said 'in your dreams." Rita finished with a flourish looking to her audience of one for their reaction. Durandal predictably did not respond, having stopped taking the report seriously a while ago.
"Master Durandal," Rita pouted. "I thought you said you would help me write my mission report." This finally caused the S-rank Valkyrja to bristle.
"I did," she confirmed. "I did not however agree to listen to your fanifical story. Rita, this is a mission report, please take this seriously. No exaggeration, no rose colored glass, only facts."
"I am taking this seriously," Rita assured. "I haven't made anything up."
"Oh really?" Durandal snapped. "Then let me get your story straight. After you infiltrated ME headquarters, you met a mysterious stranger in the basement. The two of you exchanged greetings before, and I am quoting you on this, you two performed the waltz with sparks of passion in the air after which he swept you off your feet. At that point the Honkai beasts in the lab had escaped so you temporarily joined forces to eliminate the threat. Soon after he threw you down, with the fires of passion in his eyes, and then cupped your face in his hands. Finally the two of you parted with him saying that you would see him in your dreams." Durandal looked back at Rita with a glare. "All of that sound about right?"
"You missed all the eloquent details I included." Rita responded with a coy smile. "But yes I believe that about sums it up."
"This is ridiculous!" Durandal shouted, throwing up her hands in defeat. "Rita, none of that could have possibly happened! You're telling me that some phantom thief slipped in and managed to not only hack into the ME corporate database but steal your heart as well!"
Rita could only giggle at her outburst. "Master Durandul, don't tell me you're jealous." That alone got red creeping up to her cheeks.
"Wha- No! Why would I be jealous?" Durandal denied. She looked to Rita only to find the maid with a self satisfied smirk on her face. Rita was messing with her again. She buried her head in her hands and took a deep breath. "Look, can we just get this report over with? I want to get some training in today."
"Oh don't worry Master Durandal," The maid curtsied. "I made sure to turn in my actual report before coming to speak with you." The seconds ticked by until the full meaning of her adjutant's sentence clicked in Durandal's mind.
Files from the future.
Despite the controversy of the topic, I am making a file here. The world must remember what we have fought and triumphed over. Forgetting would only be an insult to those who have given their lives to the cause.
A Herrscher is seen as an envoy, a human vessel that embodies the will of the Honkai. Their sole purpose, much like all Honkai beasts, is the destruction of the human race. They are seen as rulers of the Honkai and can control armies of Honkai beasts effortlessly. Furthermore these Herrscher's have powers far beyond that of a human, easily bending the laws of the world to their whim. If left unchecked, these beings can easily lay waste to the world.
A Herrscher's source of power is their Herrscher core, which is essential to their entire existence. If the core is not neutralized when the body is destroyed, the Herrscher can take over another person as a vessel. To truly stop a Herrscher, the destruction of their core is necessary. The creation process of a core is unknown, though it is thought that a Honkai eruption needs to occur for the formation of one.
Fortunately not all Herrscher are against humanity. If an individual can overcome the 'voice of the Honkai' within them, it is possible that a human can retain their sense of self but utilize the powers of a Herrscher. Raiden Mei and Welt Joyce are notable examples of this phenomenon.
The final impact has come and gone. I can only hope this file remains a remnant of the past and will never need to be used again.
This chapter was fun to write. No only did I get to showcase Rita, one of my personal favorites, I got to interact with several characters who normally don't get the spot light until later. I plan to give the AE scientists more screen time the future and have them close to the plot. Durandal as well, though it will be difficult to add her in without any forethought.
Hopefully my action scenes were fluid enough to understand. I've been told that sometimes they are hard to follow. Tell me what you think.
I am slowly setting the board for future events. I am excited for what I have planned, as the Honkai impact timeline leaves plenty of opportunity to get creative with the story beats.
A huge thank you to everyone who favorited, followed and reviewed.
As always If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave a review or send me a private message. I will answer them as soon as I can.