Author's Notes: Hopefully, if everything worked out right, The King of Dust will have updated at the same time, suffering from the same one year lapse I had. Anyway, if you're feeling bold, feel free and hop on over to it and check it out. (Rated M for Mature, kids.)
One more thing, as I channel Steve Jobs, the name of this chapter comes from the U.S. Navy's railgun. And the events were inspired by episode eighteen of "The Big O" entitled "The Greatest Villain."
Negima: Femella Intra Machina
Dark Dragon Dave
Chapter 15: Velocitas Eradico
InfinIT, the runner-up in the robotics race. Once said of them by Schwarzerschutz's Rachel Lynch, "They come in fourth in a field of two." Suffice to say, they are thought of as a joke within the community, at least to Kaminari and Schwarzerschutz. To those even below them, they're seen as an anachronism. Their latest attempt at dominance, New Dawn and Ozzymandus, were leaps and bounds beyond what they are usually capable of. With the apparent destruction of New Dawn and Ozzymandus at the hands of the Artificer's own A.I. their future seems bleak at best, since the cost of developing an artificial intelligence being astronomical for anything smarter than a bug. Not to mention the cost of giant robots.
Their death seems inevitable.
A man in a brown outfit turns his equally brown box van around a corner and heads down the street. It has been so far, a routine day of package delivery, showing exactly what brown can do. In the back of the truck there is any number of boxes waiting to be dropped off at several locations within Mahora Academy.
As the van rolls to a stop in front of another building, a man out in front nods to another man beside him. The second man nods back and begins walking slowly towards the truck as the driver gets out. The second man walks around the truck and across the street and out of the driver's view.
The first man, on the other hand, enters the building. The driver leaves the back of the truck and heads towards the building with a box and digital clipboard. The second man takes this opportunity to hop in the passenger side of the delivery truck and go into the back to begin rummaging through the different boxes.
The delivery man drops off the package and gets the signature he is after. As he is about to leave he hears a strange click and something hard getting shoved into his back.
"We're going to head outside and when we get there, you're going to drive your truck out of town and away from the highway."
The courier makes no sudden movements and does as his assailant asks. When he sits down in his seat, the courier is about to slam the truck into gear and leave the man behind when another gun clicks behind his head.
"Sorry man… It just doesn't look like it's your day, does it?"
The other man climbs up in the passenger side and sits down. "Now let's get going."
A dirt road to the middle of a forest is a strange place to be for a brown delivery truck to be but it is there nonetheless.
"Okay pal, here's what's gonna happen. You're gonna go back there and help my friend there find a box for a one 'Reina Whitehall.' You see, our boss is very set on getting it before she does since it could mean billions in lost profits. And we can't have that."
"Shut up and get the damn box already! Time is money."
"I already delivered that package."
Everyone is silent for a moment before the two criminals begin freaking out. "WHAT?"
"She received it earlier this morning. I deliver all packages for students straight to the school's own mail office."
"Oh man… We screwed up," said the guy in the back of the truck. He ends up on the receiving end of a couple of punches by the guy in the passenger seat.
"You damn idiot! You told me the boss said it was going to be delivered at 9:19!" Drops of sweat visible on his brow.
"Yeah he gave me a note." The screw up reaches into his pocket and hands over a small, crumpled, yellow note. "See? 9:19."
The slowly angering smarter crook looks it over. "You moron! You looked at it upside down. This says 6:16."
"Don't 'oh' me! We gotta do something to fix this! We're both going to be fired over this."
The dimmer of the two looks at his watch. "We should have a few hours right? Let's head back and nab it there."
"Hey, you can have an idea every now and again."
Before they leave, they shoot the courier's phone and tires, stranding him in the woods.
"Sister, how have you been?" asks the little hologram Negi. A girl with long, blonde, hair watches the little hologram with a smile on her face. "I'd like to think I've been getting along well here. As you know, four months have passed since I left and, even though teaching has been tough, everyone here has been really nice and helpful in getting me used to being a teacher.
"I've made a lot of good friends here, from the one student who works really hard but still seems to get low marks to the one who commands a giant machine. I've sent along a few articles and pictures about all of that. Oh and there's Kotaro too. He's a new friend I've made."
"Hey, Negi. Who are you talking to?" A girl asks and comes into the range of the hologram.
"Asuna! I'm recording a letter for my sister."
"Oh jeez, I'm sorry. Well, I guess I should say hello. My name is Asuna Kagurazaka." Nekane laughs at this. "Hey Negi, you should probably just make another letter."
"I think this is fine. She might be interested in seeing one of my students."
"But I'm in my pajamas."
"Eh heh heh… Anyway, I've been getting training from a powerful mage called Evangeline, and I've been training in Kenpo from Ku Fei. It's a pretty popular martial art. But other than my teaching job, there's been so many other things that have happened." Chamo hops up on his shoulder and whispers something inaudible to the recorder. "Well, I guess I'm going to have to leave those for later."
"Seems he's growing up. He's starting to keep things from me… This makes me feel really lonely," she thinks to herself. She sighs and sits up. "Well, at least the people around him all seem really nice. Keep working hard Negi."
Negi, Asuna, and the ever zephyr-like Konoka rush to school in their usual routine. The roads flush with students heading to their own classes join them in the crazy morning hours of Mahora on a weekday. Before they can make it, a familiar face interrupts them.
"Yo there Negi!" Kotaro says.
"Ah! Good morning Kotaro-kun. Say, what's with that outfit?" Negi asks.
The wolf boy beams a big smile. "I officially transferred here."
"Really? Why'd you do that?"
"Well, because of you, Setsuna-san, and that other really strong girl. Right now, I'm looking for a place to stay at. Preferably alone."
An intense, forceful, energy burst out from behind Kotaro. "Oh that just won't do! I insist you stay with us!"
Kotaro blanches and looks behind himself. Chizuru is standing there with Natsumi beside her. The young actress looks like she's about to witness the acts of some sort of cosmic horror.
With a slight shudder in his voice, Kotaro begins pleading. "H- Hey listen…"
"Nonsense. Negi-sensei, you know Kotaro, correct?"
"I hear this poor boy has no parents." Chizuru begins hugging the wolf boy, pressing his head against her chest.
"Please stop this!" Kotaro strains, "Negi's looking!"
"Huh." Negi comments, not sure of what's going on.
"And because of this, it's up to me to raise this boy properly into a fine man!" Several clouds part, sending beams of twinkling light down on the girl.
As they stand there, something bumps into the two boys. The turn to see—
"Demons!" Negi shouts as the two of them reflexively take offensive stances.
"Whoops… Sorry kid. Didn't mean to nearly run you down there." The 'demons' turn and head off, followed by a bunch of other chaos. Robots, Kamen Rider, and giant teddy bears, oh my.
Negi comments, "Even with as long as I've been here, this still seems weird."
"What the heck…"
"The college seniors always put their all into this," Asuna says casually.
Chizuru asks, "I wonder when that'll be used?"
Something else catches the eyes of Negi and Kotaro. The dazzling display of an acrobat leaping from the rings held by swinging acrobat, and grabbing on to another swing. Getting a better look, Negi can see who it is. The daredevil child glances down and sees who is looking up at her.
She leaps off the swing, does a 1800 degree spin, and lands right in front of the child teacher. "Negi-sensei, please come visit our 'Nightmare Circus' sometime." She hands him a couple of tickets.
"O- Okay." Negi says, causing Zazie to smile at him. The shock of hearing her speak prevents him from saying much else.
Kotaro, never having met her before, has no such problem. "So what's with all this anyway?"
"It's the school festival," explains Natsumi. "That reminds me." She produces two tickets and hands them to Negi. "I'm going to be doing something with my club and I wanted to give you a couple of tickets."
"Oh! Um, thank you. I'll be sure to visit you during your activity too."
"Hey look Negi," Kotaro says while pointing at a new structure, "the Arch Du Jour."
"That's 'Arc de Triomphe.' But what it's doing here is beyond me."
"You stupid kids!" shouts a guy near it.
"Hey old guy, what's with the Arc… d- du Fromage?"
"Hey! Cut the 'old guy' crap! Anyway, this here is the Festival Gate."
Kotaro is stunned. "Nice. If this is just the gate, this school must be amazing!"
"Oh you guys don't know the half of it. Since you guys weren't here for the last one, let me bring you up to speed," Chizuru explains. "It's an academy-wide festival, and with the higher classes done with their midterms, they're all anxious to get going. And most of the university run booths and attractions make their entire yearly budget off of this, so of course they're going to go all out."
"Holy crap!" Kotaro exclaims.
"It's not all fun and games though. The parties can get out of hand rather quickly. Like last year when a campus-wide game of tag resulted in nearly 10,000 deaths." Negi and Kotaro begin to turn white as sheets. "The streets ran red with blood…" Somewhere, a thunderbolt cracks.
Asuna breaks her story. "Quit scaring the kids. Listen you two, I was here last year and no such thing happened. There's never been any deaths during Mahorafest."
Kotaro says, "This sounds like fun," with cheer in his voice. "I'm glad I transferred here. Whadya say Negi? Let's go join up with the martial arts tournament or something?"
Hesitantly, Negi answers, "Well, I don't know. I'm kinda behind on some things."
Chisame wakes up well before the chaos of the morning routine. She stretches out and puts her feet on the floor with a yawn. She stands up and pats Reina to wake her up. Since Chisame's roommate moved in, she's gotten used to having to be her alarm clock.
"Hey, time to get up." Reina mutters something unintelligible in response. "Not gonna work." Chisame tells her and walks over to her computer. She wakes it up easier than her roomie, and opens her media player. In the search field she types in "Children of the Elder God" and presses play.
A powerful guitar rift later and Reina wakes up. "Warriors, torchbearers, come redeem our dreams!" the song continues, while the formerly slumbering girl flops around like she's on fire.
"What the hell?" Reina asks, her hair somehow more disheveled than it usually is.
Chisame stops the song when it starts going on about Memory and Thought. "It's time to get ready for school."
"Ugh… F- Fine." The pilot girl hops out of bed and adjusts her hair as best she can. In a few short minutes, she's dressed for school and heading out.
"Not going to eat anything?"
Leaving, Reina answers hurriedly, "I'm s- stopping by the p- p- post office before school. I've b- been exp- p- ecting a n- ew phone. And I got a- a- asked to do something b- before class s- starts."
"Okay. You could at least grab something out of the refrigerator." Chisame nods in its direction.
Reina submits easily and walks back to the kitchen. Playfully, she remarks "Th- Thanks mom." Not really looking, she takes an orange juice out.
Slightly angry, Chisame tells her, "Don't call me that!"
Not saying anything in response, Reina shoots out the door and down the hallway.
As Negi enters class, he's greeted by several of his students dressed as maids. Front and center is Ayaka Yukihiro. Each one of the five girls sports a big smile as they announce, "Hello there and welcome to the 'Merry Maids of the 3-A Café, Albionis!'"
"What is all of this?" Negi asks in a panicked tone, throwing his arms up in shock and horror at the sudden change to the classroom. He is on the verge of flailing.
Ayaka explains, "We decided to do a maid café. The school allows us raise money so we're doing this to bring in some funds. Still, I'm unclear as to what a maid café is, but since we all need them, I'll be willing to help get custom made clothes for everyone."
Yuna and Haruna both think along the line of, "A fool and their money are soon parted." Looks of greed slime across their faces, bending around their smiles.
"Hey Negi, why not be our first customer?" suggests one of the girls, the idea of which the other girls pick up and continue as they haul him over to a couch.
He suddenly finds himself with a drink in hand as the girls fawn over him. The pace at which things are moving leaves him in a state of confusion.
"Oh dear, Negi-kun," Sakurako says, "I dropped bottle opener down between my breasts. Would you mind getting it for me?"
"WHAT?" Asuna shouts.
Negi only sputters in response. "You want me to what where?"
"Just a little adult play," Misa answers with a sultry tone in her voice. "Negi-kun."
"And here is you bill sir, 7800 yen."
Negi sprays his drink. "WHAAAAAAAA?"
"Oh come on!" protests Asuna.
Ayaka shares her dissatisfaction. "That's highway robbery!"
"We've still got so many other costumes Negi!" is the last thing he hears before there are more girls standing in front of him in various styles of maid uniforms… Except Akira who is dressed in a bunny outfit for some strange reason.
Ku Fei puts it on his tab. "That's 12,000 now Negi-sensei. Pay now please."
"Seriously, what the hell is up with this?" Asuna asks Yuna, stress and anger in her voice.
"See, we couldn't agree on a single uniform and since we're making money while teaching Negi about the pitfall filled world of adulthood, we were thinking it'd be like a three-in-one deal," explains Yuna.
"Still something… lacking," Kazumi waxes. "We need a variety of tastes to cater to more people." She thinks for a bit before snapping her fingers.
She points at every one of her targets. "Mana, you'll be a priestess. Misora, you'll be a nun in a mini skirt. Setsuna, school swimsuit and cat ears. Reina, an Evangelion style plugsuit. Ako, sexy cat-eared nurse. And you two," she says while pointing at the twins, "kindergarteners."
Most of the girls seem to be either shocked or horrified. Except Reina who is more interested in fiddling around with her new phone.
"I what?" asks Mana
"Okaaaaay…" Misora says.
Shocked, Setsuna asks, "Why is mine so out of place?"
"Already have one," Reina says flatly, distracted by putting her old SIM card in her new phone.
Without warning, they are all wearing their prescribed outfits. Mana, Ako, and Setsuna are embarrassed by their outfits. Reina freaks out because of her sudden nearby classmates and that she does not remember getting dressed up.
Oddly, Fuuka and Fumika are okay with it.
Ku Fei punches in some random numbers into her calculator. "That 20,000 yen. You pay now." Negi almost has a heart attack.
Kazumi and Yuna stare on horrified. Kazumi says, "I think… We went too far."
"See, this is all wrong," Haruna muses. "Sometimes you just need a light touch… Something like… THIS!" She shows off Nodoka in a simple and nice maid outfit. Something more akin to a waitress.
Ku Fei throws out, "That 28,000 yen." She's not even trying anymore.
The whole time, Chisame is standing outside the room, peeking in. The failing excuses for cosplay going on in there are starting to drive her insane. "I could easily bring in around a thousand people." After a quick outfit change, she barges into the classroom. "Alright maggots, this is going to be Chiu-sama Cosplay Boot Camp in a moment! I'll show you how…" Her voice slowly lowers as she feels a cold presence creep up from behind her.
Like a ghost, Nitta materializes out from the darkness behind her. His voice booms like an explosion. "DO ANY OF YOU GIRLS KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS?"
Despite arguing their case, they all end up sitting in the seiza position.
After the day winds down, Asuna approaches Setsuna about getting them and Reina together for some training. All three agree and settle on their usual spot. Shyly, Reina tells them she'll join up with them once she grabs her sword. She understands that this is a necessary evil on the road to getting over things. Once an hour passes, with no sign of her or the Ivory, Setsuna and Asuna decide to call her to find out what's happening.
"Hello," says a rather cold, male voice. "It certainly took you long enough."
"What? Who is this?" Asuna asks.
A soft chuckle comes out over the ear piece. "Did you know, it doesn't take much to knock out someone who has a brain full of electronic equipment? Who knew?"
Asuna puts two and two together rather easily. "What have you done with Reina-san?" Setsuna's attention perks up.
"I've said too much. But now that I notice, it's quite a system he has in place. The phone, being the only outside key to the mech… Hmmm… I'm going to hang up now. Don't call again because you'll ruin everything." With that, the other end hangs up.
As soon as that happens, Asuna redials. After a moment, nothing happens. "Damn it, I think my number's blocked."
Setsuna asks, "What's happened?"
"I think someone has Reina." Asuna puts her phone away. "We need to head back. Whoever it was mentioned something about a key to 'the mech' and I'm assuming they meant Reina's."
Reina heads back to the dorms to grab her sword. Many thoughts run through her mind as she walks, namely if her mother ever found sword training therapeutic. It's cut off quickly as she sighs. "Mom was probably normal."
Before she can enter the dorm room, something hard gets shoved into her back. A quiet click stops her before she can make an obvious joke.
"Good night sweetie."
Once again, as it seems to be a trend since coming here, Reina passes out. This time from an electrical shock.
When she wakes up, she's bound and tied to a chair, a piece of duct tape over her mouth. Sometimes she really hates her brain. When she can, she should get it looked at.
"Oh good, you're awake. We've got a special presentation for you." Out of the shadows steps a guy with an older television on a cart. Earlier today this guy was hijacking a delivery truck with another guy. "You see, our boss has been a little… freaked… since you destroyed the New Dawn and Ozzy Osbourne, or whatever he was called."
Reina opens her mouth since they only applied on small bit of tape, the tape peeling off her lips, and pulls it off by chewing on it. Once it's a nice slobbery ball of nastyness, she spits it in his direction and scores a direct hit on his face.
"Ah gross." He settles on using his shirt to wipe his face off. Once his face is dry, he begins explaining again. "Anyway, the boss noticed the blast that ended the fight came from somewhere in town here and decided to kill two birds with one stone as it were and take your machine and wipe this city off the map."
"What? Why? Wes Kline wants someone to blame, then blame the Artificer. And he can't even pilot the thing since it only works with me."
"He's used the last of his money to solve that. You see, this is a bit of a final gambit. Either this works or InfinIT is done and we're all out of jobs. Well, sorry I don't have any popcorn or snacks or anything, but it's just about showtime." He turns the TV on and the show begins.
Before Asuna and Setuna can get back to the dorms, a rather lanky fellow in a sharp suit approaches the girls' dormitory. He stands there and looks up at the large white machine parked up against the building. His coat flutters about as he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a phone.
"I'll show them who the worst company is! Ivory Knight, you're mine to control now! Awaken and obey your NEW MASTER!" He presses the button on Reina's new phone and the lights of the Ivory Knights eyes light up. "Before we get ready to sweep you away to your new life, I want answers from this town. Something happened back then, and it cost me a lot of money. Someone needs to answer for this!"
He begins walking along, pressing the button on the phone. The Ivory Knight walks along behind him like a child following its mother, the heavy metal footsteps of the mech shaking the ground. People inside the buildings come to the windows to look since its pilot has never been this close to the buildings. InfinIT's owner holds the phone high in the air like a trophy of war. When he reaches a parked car, he climbs in and starts it. He drives off with the Ivory Knight keeping pace.
"NO!" Reina shouts. "Where is he taking it?" Her emotions start to run high as it feels like they're walking off with a piece of her own existence.
Her captor explains, "Everything's been cleared for using the railway out of here. The car is ready to be loaded and then your machine becomes InfinIT's. Sorry it had to come to this kid… But business is business. And business for Mr. Kline ain't so good right now."
The giant white machine follows the car down one road and turns when it can down another. Its puppet programming merely avoiding crashing into buildings as it follows the signal. Cars swerve out of the way to avoid being stomped on, allowing the car to drive down the middle of the road. People along the sidewalks have mixed reactions. Some don't react much since they are used to Mahora's biggest resident. Others aren't from around there and do their best to freak out and run away.
The light shining up from the city bathes the mech ominously. It stops plodding once Wes stops and gets out of the car with the phone and a brief case.
"Time to raze this shithole to the ground Ivory Knight! And when we get back, we'll study you and then sell you to the highest bidder. There are quite a number of people that would be interested in getting their hands on you." He walks over to the machine, and it lowers the winch in response. "And what's best is that Kaminari Grand Industrial will be the one getting all the blame!" His grin is magnificent.
He rides the winch up and into the Ivory Knight. Once inside, he pops open the case and takes out what looks to be an ordinary controller for a video game system. He hooks it into a box inside the case and then hooks the phone into the box. Kneeling down he takes some tape out of the case and tapes the box down to the floor, and jury rigs the whole set-up to a power feed from the Ivory.
After closing his jacked ride, he heaves himself into the chair only Reina and Negi have ever sat in, and waits for the safety system to strap him in. Before the straps come down, two wires lower themselves down. Wes looks them over curiously and decides to ignore them. After a few seconds of nothing happening, he presses one of the buttons of the controller. The mech jerks in response and the straps quickly bind him to the chair, save his arms.
"Don't want to fall out of this can, now do I?" Screens lower down and show views of the outside. "I knew it. Systems for a standard piloting method were always there."
Outside the machine, it takes its first step under new management as he moves the left thumbstick up. Farther down the street, on top of a building, Asuna, Setsuna, Konoka, Kaede, and Negi look on.
"Are you sure she's in danger?" Negi asks. "Seems she's back in the Ivory."
Asuna tells him, "It was a man's voice. I know something is up."
As if to prove her point, the Ivory Knight flares its sword and takes a few swipes at the gate that's been set up for Mahorafest. It falls to bits instantly.
"That isn't Reina-dono in there," Kaede says, stating the somewhat obvious.
Shaking his head, Negi says, "There can't be. How could anyone else be in there?"
"Either way, we need to find some way of stopping it."
"I'll go on ahead," Kaede tells them, "and try to get whoever is in there, out of there." Without a bit of hesitation, she runs towards the metal giant. She activates her pactio and goes in invisibly.
"We need to do something too," Setsuna advises.
Chamo pops over his shoulder. "Hey! Don't forget that you can summon her here."
"But what if she really is in there?" asks Negi.
"Contact her with the pactio first," is Chamo's answer.
Negi takes out Reina's card and puts it to his forehead. "Reina-san! Where are you?" he asks.
Reina replies, "Negi-kun? I'm in trouble. Someone's got the Ivory to work for them."
"I've noticed. Are you okay? Where are you?"
"I don't know. I'm just lucky the guy who tied me up is an idiot."
"I'm going to try and teleport you here. Hang on." The teacher activates the card in attempt to draw his student across space. It takes a while before she materializes.
She screams as she does. "MY HEAD'S GONNA EXPLODE!" Once she's finally there she slumps over as best she can and breathes. "My damn head… One thing is fine, another makes me feel like I'm dying…"
"Let's untie her," Asuna says and gets to work.
"Please be quick," Reina says, with urgency once again overriding fear. "We're wasting time when people could be getting hurt because of me."
Konoka tells her, "Kaede-san's already on that. She's trying to open the hatch."
"Once we have it open," Setsuna gets cut off before finishing.
"She can't open it," Reina tells them. "It's designed to be like one of those vaults. Completely safe on the inside and when I'm inside, even safer. This is bad… Real bad." After a few moments, she turns to Negi and tells him, "Listen, tell Kaede to take out the missile pod on the back."
Negi nods and places Kaede's card against his head.
Kaede tries hanging on for dear life while upside down. The seal on the Ivory's hatch simply will not budge. She gives up after a while, climbing up to the top of the machine. She does her best to keep her balance as it stomps along.
"Kaede-san!" Negi shouts in her thoughts. "We got Reina and she says to take out the missile pod before it can do any damage!"
Kaede follows orders and heads to the missile case. She looks around for anything she can destroy to keep the missiles from being fired. With a few swift cuts from her kunai, a rubber covering reveals a cluster of wires. Throwing caution to the wind, she starts hacking at them. Sparks issue forth, setting off an alarm inside the cabin.
Inside the cabin of the stolen Knight, Wes gets a phone call. His anger at the caller is apparent from the moment he answers.
"You'd better have a reeeeal good reason to bother me while I'm working, Eddie."
"Boss! The girl disappeared!" comes the distressed message from the other end.
"What did you say?" asks Wes, venom in every word. "Before you tell me again, think about what you're saying to me."
Eddie knows that he has messed up. His response is hesitant. "I- I don't know what happened. She just… faded away."
"I should fire you for drinking on the job and then pissing away my time! You probably fell asleep or something. Go find her, she couldn't have gotten far."
"But boss, I didn't—
"Shut up and go find her. She gets out and who knows what will happen." An alarm interrupts him. "Something's wrong. I've got to deal with this. And I'm dead serious on finding that chick."
A message on the screens state "MISSILE BATTERY INACTIVE – MALFUNCTION DETECTED" in red blocky letters.
Wes groans. "What the hell just happened?" He clicks a button that would have activated the missiles and gets a beep that apparently says pressing that button is pointless.
"Well, I still have this!" He taps another button and her rifle fires off. Stupidly it is pointing down when he does it and all he does is cuts utilities to several blocks and the bullet rips a hole in the pavement. "This is a pain in the ass to control."
If people weren't panicking before, they are now.
"Negi…" Reina speaks. Her hesitation is highly apparent. Small tears form in the corners of her eyes. "Blast it. Once he gets the gun properly figured out, he'll have about a hundred rounds to play with. Use a spell or something and destroy it if you need too."
It levels the gun and takes pot shots at several buildings. Broken glass, metal, and bricks go flying everywhere.
Negi looks uneasy. "Are you sure?"
"Just do it. I can't stand here watching this any longer. You… You guys can do this."
"I don't want to destroy anything so we'll try our best to disable it instead." He pulls out his staff. "Setsuna-san, come with me."
Setsuna nods and climbs on to the staff. It lifts off into the air, carrying Setsuna and Negi towards the massive machine. As they approach it, the scale of it all makes its moves seem a lot faster. They angle around to approach it from the back.
"I think heading for the eyes would be best. He can't attack what he can't see," Negi states.
Setsuna nods in agreement. "A sound decision."
Inside, Wes notices a ping on the radar system. Whatever it is, it is small. "What? Are they sending a drone after me?" He comes up with an idea quickly and feigns ignorance.
Once they are within range, he turns and throttles the barrel of the gun directly at them, its cavernous opening pointing directly at them. Negi leans down and to his right in time to avoid the massive chunk of metal that belches forth. The shockwave of it going by sends them into spin that ends up in an alleyway.
"That wasn't a drone… What was that?" He stomps the mech over to the alley he sees it crash into.
Kaede hops down from her perch and swallows the duo in invisibility before they can be seen by Wes.
"Hmm. Now how do I activate something other than regular cameras?" He taps a button several times, causing the machine to shudder under a bunch of commands. One of them made the Ivory punch at the building in front of it.
Bricks and mortar crash down in the alley, smashing everything they land upon and filling it with dust.
"It's like a badly controlled puppet," muses Konoka. "Hopefully Negi and the others are okay."
"Hey, Reina... Your shield draws in attacks, right?" asks Asuna. "Why not use that to draw bullets off their course?"
"Because I don't know where they'd land or if the shield could block the bullet. Taking out the missiles was the best thing I could think of. I wish I knew something you two could do." She punches down on the top of the parapet surrounding the top of the building. "I've never felt so useless."
"Welcome to the rest of us," Asuna offers and puts an arm around her shoulders. "For now, let's sit back and come in if they ask for it."
A stream of dust rises quickly from alley, offering hope to those who watch. By this time, mages from the academy are gathering in the area to stop the giant machine from wiping out the town. It continues down the street, punching at buildings. Almost synchronized, they all start shooting beams at it.
The impact of all of them explodes, causing the Ivory Knight to reel back. Several of the mages begin casting machine gun like spells as a follow up. Frighteningly, the Ivory Knight runs through cloud of smoke, heading to a larger group of assembled mages. It releases its sword as it runs, ripping up the pavement and cutting a massive swath of destruction along the street.
The mages in front of it are able to dodge the incredibly hot plasma before it burns them to nothingness. Wes brings the sword down and slices the building neatly in half before knocking it down too.
He's cackling on the inside. "NO ONE CAN STOP ME INSIDE OF THIS THING! I AM UTTERLY INVINCIBLE! I can finally see what was wrong with all of my previous machines. This power is incredible."
In an instant, the left half of the screens show a school girl with a sword for a split second before switching to static.
"What the hell?" Wes asks and somehow works the machine into a headbutt.
Setsuna, being on the edge of the eye frame, is unable to dodge the massive wall of metal and high-density, spinel-ceramics. She tumbles to the ground only to be caught by Negi. He has to dodge again when the white giant turns in his direction, swinging away with the barrel of its rifle.
Wes fiddles with the buttons and stumbles upon what Reina fears. The Ivory Knight lifts off the ground, its powerful engines bursting the glass of nearby buildings. It doesn't get too far into the sky before coming down again with a big impact.
Now that he knows what button to press, the Ivory Knight lifts off and stays there. The three kids fighting the machine follow along up into the air on Negi's staff. The Ivory rotates a few times, drops down a bit, raises up… The pilot inside is getting used to the way it moves before going further.
"Now I know I've seen that bitch boost this thing around at incredible speed… How do I do that?" He presses a button on the other side of the controller and finds out. "I see. This is just like that one mech game. I'll have to give the lab boys a little bit of a bonus for that." He shuts the thrusters back down before the machine can take off.
Negi, Setsuna, and Kaede catch up with the machine. Negi moves around behind the machine and takes aim at the engines. He feels guilty as he channels as much power as he can and fires off his light arrows. They explode as they impact, but don't seem to be doing much damage.
"It didn't do anything!" cries the boy.
"I assume this was made for military grade stuff, so it might be one tough fight," Kaede tells him. "We seem to have more luck attacking up close. Let's try taking out its radar next. It's those two flaps in the shape of a sideways peace sign on the back, right?"
"I- I think so."
"I'll try and take that out. Setsuna-dono, take out the other eye. Let's blind whoever is in there."
The machine turns around and focuses its one good eye on the trio.
"What am I seeing?" Wes ponders, looking at the three children floating on a stick and decides to swipe at it with the open palm of his jacked ride. He figures hitting a fly with a sword is near impossible, especially if you aren't fully familiar with the weapon in question.
More beams and other projectiles hit the hand before it can make contact. The machine pulls its hand back and looks around.
"Where are these people keeping their weapons?" wonders the Ivory's new pilot. He activates the sword and flies down to take swipes at the people firing at him. He misses but ends up cutting through the top of the building they were standing on.
Negi and his two students catch up with the machine quicker than expected since it flies back. The three of them land hard on its back area and spill off the staff. The young teacher rolls down and catches himself on the edge before falling off. He scrambles back up and gets some proper footing.
Covering his eyes in case of loose fragments, he fires more light arrows at the radar array on the Ivory Knight's back. He continues firing light arrows at it until it finally breaks apart and swings uselessly off of the mech's back.
The machine's balance goes haywire when that happens, causing it to list forward by a degree. An enterprising mage with the school take this opportunity to cast a gravity spell, dropping the machine like a lead bowling ball. Chunks of pavement rip up as it lands, sending dirt and cement into the air. Negi keeps his two partners from meeting the ground like the mech.
The machine looks up and focuses its one good eye. It braces itself and tries pushing itself upright.
"Get up you piece of shit!" Wes yells out from inside it.
It shows its superiority to that nameless mage and rights itself with little effort.
"DIE!" shouts its pilot at the mages and aims the gun as best he can. When he fires, he misses wide to the right. "Damn it. Targeting is all messed up." He drops the gun and settles on going for full melee. Anyone in the industry can make a gun.
He takes a moment to do stock on his situation. There's a bunch of people around here with energy weapons on all sides of him, strange goings on with a girl took out one of the eyes, some kind of weird drone or something…
"What the hell is up with this school?" he asks himself as he activates the Knight's sword again. He grips the controller and says, "Here goes nothing."
The machine fires off its side boosters while holding out the sword, giving it a 360 degree cutting pattern. He boosts the engines more and more, increasing the speed of the blade as it slices through the air. Everything in the area feels the wrath of Wes Kline as the blade slices through it all. Stuff nearby that is not destroyed melts or burns; the air ripples with heat as the plasma in the air dissipates.
Several shots ring out, like those from a high caliber rifle. The bullets bounce off without doing much damage, aside from scraping some paint off. Inside the cabin of the Ivory, a signal on the screen alerts Wes as to the direction of the attack. The Ivory Knight turns and looks around, Wes hoping to find the source.
He cannot trace where they came from nor see the shooter. "I'm being ganged up on. Perhaps this school has more to it than I initially thought. I think it's about time to head on out of here. Lemme see if I can do her little sliding trick."
He fires the thrusters just enough to get some lift and moves the machine forward. Just like Reina does, it begins sliding forward. It is a much faster way of moving around. The mages all begin to panic as they have no way of keeping up with the machine.
It dashes through town, doing what damage it can, on its trip to the rail station. Negi, despite channeling everything he can, can't keep up. The teacher gets a message from Reina, over the pactio. "Aim for the back of the knee. If you take out the legs, it'll be useless."
"I can't even keep up with it," Negi tells her in response.
Something tackles the Ivory Knight, keeping the teacher and his two friends from needing to worry about it.
Reina looks off into the distance and can see what tackled it. "No… What the hell is he doing here?" She turns to Konoka and Asuna."We need to get over there now!" Without a response, she climbs down a fire escape.
"Come on Konoka," Asuna says and follows suit.
"Right behind you!"
Once they're on the ground, Reina looks around and sees a sporty, two-door, car. She tilts her head at an odd angle and smiles, her eyes filled with a strange gleam. Disregarding law entirely, she enters the driver's side and starts the car.
"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?" Asuna yells.
"My day's already turned to crap so a minor motor vehicle theft charge isn't really something I'm concerned about. Besides… This guy isn't going to mind."
"Yay! Shotgun!" Konoka trills as she heads to the passenger side.
Asuna catches up with the both of them. "Hey… Where am I supposed to sit?"
Konoka tilts her seat forward. "There you go." Her face is devious in its happiness.
Asuna climbs into the back of the car and finds a perfectly uncomfortable spot to sit in. "Can you drive?"
"I can pilot a massive robot like it was the back of my hand…" Reina answers. "And no, I'm not referring to the Ivory Knight." Once Konoka is in, she puts the car in gear and drives off. "But yes, I can. A golf cart anyway."
The Ivory Knight picks itself up and turns to face what just knocked it over. It's black and very similar to the Ivory Knight. Following up behind this new menace is green machine that he knows the model of.
"Well, if it isn't Hisao Whitehall, pilot of the Ebony Knight. And a BG-302-Falchion… You a garbage man now?" Wes asks, his voice full of condescension. "I mean, it's the only reason I can think of having one of those with you."
The Falchion begins to dart forward, but Hisao sticks his arm out, holding the Falchion back. "Corentin." Hisao looks back to the Ivory Knight. "So who are you and why have taken my sister's body? You obviously know me so why don't you identify yourself?"
"Wes Kline. Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of InfinIT," he starts screaming insanely, "AND NEW PILOT OF THE IVORY KNIGHT!"
Hisao coldly replies, "Shut your mouth."
"Huh?" Hisao's response throws Wes' thoughts off track.
"You are not the pilot. Screaming it won't make it any less of a lie. Now get out of my sister's body!" Hisao dashes in and avoids a slash at the Ebony's legs. He lifts himself up and over the Ivory, handstanding on its shoulders. Using his boosters he spins himself around and jumps off. Unlike the plodding the Ivory has been doing, he lands relatively softly.
When the Ivory turns to Hisao, Corentin aims a massive rifle and aims a shot in a gap in the shoulder of the Ivory. With a burst of blue, a bolt of light rips across and hits the Ivory Knight true to his aim. It hits at an angle, causing plating around the joint to drop off, exposing some of the joint and inner skeleton of the machine.
Wes stops and realizes the situation he is in. He boosts over to Corentin and tries to slice the gun to bits. Corentin moves the gun out of the way, grabs the Ivory's sword arm, braces his footing, and hip tosses the larger mech. As if his veins are filled with ice, Corentin aims the barrel of his gun down at the Ivory's head.
"I would appreciate much you to cooperate with Mon Hisao."
Wes tries to grab the Falchion's ankles but Corentin counters by stepping back. "I am not a fool."
Thinking quickly, Wes fires the boosters and slides along the Ivory's back, knocking Corentin down as he scrapes by. Wes does his best to make the Ivory roll, bringing the machine back to a standing position quickly. The missile pod finally snaps off and remains behind.
"I'm starting to lose out on this investment." He again activates the mech's sword and dashes towards Hisao, cutting up bits of pavement and buildings as he goes.
When he tries to stab the Ebony Knight, Hisao simply ducks the thrust. He stands up quickly and wraps his arm around the Ivory's arm. He elbows the Ivory in the face, and lifts up on the entrapped arm. Sparks fly out from the joint. Hisao puts a foot on the Ivory's chest and begins pulling on it.
"I'm sorry Reina, but this is what happens when you get to close to common trash," he mutters to himself as the arm tears off in an explosion.
The plasma of the sword blade dissipates slowly as the arm gets tossed to the side. Cables and tubes hang out of the now useless socket of the mech.
Wes begins mashing buttons, specifically the one he used to punch earlier. The Ivory throws punch after punch, forcing Hisao to block. The white machine wobbles around as it attacks, its balance now being horribly out of alignment. Its auto-balancers doing their best to keep the machine upright.
Corentin cannot keep a bead on the Ivory because of the wavering it is doing. "Hisao, firing is not possible. Hitting you is a… very likely."
Hisao groans as he backs up. "It's fine. This is his only option." He switches to a secure communications channel. "Get up behind him. With only one arm, the two of us are more than he can handle."
Corentin holsters his rifle and walks up behind the Ivory Knight. In a fluid motion, the Ivory flares its instant boosters, turns to meet the Falchion and grabs its head. Wes tosses forces it around and pushes Corentin into Hisao.
"I'll just be taking this," Wes says and takes Corentin's laser rifle. "At this distance, I don't need to aim."
Negi, Setsuna, and Kaede watch everything from a rooftop. The other two mechs make them hold back on entering the fray. The group collectively gulps as the thought of taking down even more giants plays out in their heads.
As the black mech stands up, Negi recognizes it. "It's him!" panic in his voice.
"Who is he?" Setsuna asks.
"I never learned his name or anything but he attacked Reina and me at the expo when we first met. I… I don't know about the other robot. But it sounded like there was some bad blood between Reina and the pilot of the black one."
"So what is he doing here?" Setsuna asks.
"Perhaps he's trying to settle things," Kaede states. "This may work to our advantage. If he can take down the Ivory Knight, then that might solve our problems."
Reina turns a corner and heads down the same street the mechs are fighting on. She comes to a stop and gets a good look at the situation now. The image of Hisao's mech and hers fighting, without her being in the Ivory Knight, jars her a little bit.
Her mouth doesn't quite want to work with her. "No… No no no…"
"What's up?" Konoka asks and gets a good look at the new mechs that have joined the fight. "Oh."
"It's my brother Hisao."
"You have a brother?" Asuna and Konoka ask.
"Sorta. It's a long story we don't have time for," Reina tells them. "Listen, I want you two to get out of here."
Konoka complies rather easily, leaving Asuna in the back of the car.
"What are you up to?" Asuna asks.
Reina seems rather matter-of-factly when she answers, "Oh, I'm gonna ram this car into the Ivory. With any luck, it'll knock it over."
"You can't just do that to someone's car. And what about you?"
"Not just anyone's car though. Don't worry about it and get out. If I happen to hurt myself, do me a favor and scrape me up off the pavement, would you?" she says, what sounds like disaffection in her voice.
Asuna is genuinely worried. "Can't we talk about this?"
"Okay. What I'm going to do is ram this car here into the Ivory Knight. I don't plan on being in it if that's what you're thinking. I'm going to help my brother there."
"Well that makes me feel a little better."
"I'm probably going to get injured though. Diving out at… well whatever speed I can get it up to doesn't sound fun or safe. So try and hurry to me when I exit."
Asuna climbs out and joins Konoka on the sidewalk. The brunette seems to be pondering something but abandons it when Asuna steps up on the sidewalk.
Inside the car, Reina looks down at the steering wheel and gear shift. "Let's see… How does that technique go again?" she asks herself.
She begins power standing, the rear wheels barking smoke. Her nerves are singing and synapses firing at 110 percent. Once she thinks it is good enough, she pops the car in gear and it takes off rapidly. Reina gets pressed back into the seat hard as the car throttles forward toward a date with her own mech. For a brief moment she thinks this may have been a really bad idea.
When the car's pretty much set on where it will be impacting, she strains to get out of the car. It gets easier as the car slows down slightly from her not flooring it.
Betting everything, hoping for the best, and protecting her head, she dives out and tucks into a ball!
The initial impact hurts, as well as most of the rest but it's better than breaking every bone in her body or, at worse, dying. She is too concerned with how badly she's hurt to hear if the car made it or not. As she lies there, she can practically see the phrase "WASTED" written in the Pricedown font in the air. Asuna and Konoka run up to Reina and Asuna reaches down.
"WAIT!" Konoka blurts out. "Don't move her! Reina-san, can you move your toes?" Reina wiggles her feet in response.
"It's not that bad, I don't think," the downed girl says, taking sharp breaths here and there. "Hip hurts a bit too."
Asuna tells her, "Your arms are all scraped up but other than that you look fine."
"I'm glad there wasn't anything in the way, like a street light or something. Say… did my idea work?"
"Yeah," Konoka answers. "Whose car was that anyway?"
Reina laughs but then immediately holds her side and grunts in pain. "Well, aah… You see…"
The Ivory Knight looms over the Ebony Knight and the Falchion, the barrel of the laser rifle poised to make a clean hole through the both of them.
"Heh… Maybe I can even do better and haul your mech's corpse back to InfinIT. I could still make a pretty fat stack, even if yours is the obviously inferior mech. And screw the Falchion. That thing's just a hunk of shit." The sound of a roaring engine races towards them, and Wes catches it before it hits. "MY CAR!"
The impact of the car, combined with the Ivory's already tenuous balance, causes the machine to stumble. Hisao takes the opportunity to kick the rifle from Wes' control and kip up. Hisao picks up the Ivory and tosses it down, cracking the pavement. He flares up his own sword and stabs the Ivory just below the head.
"It's over," Hisao says and helps stand Corentin's mech up. He goes over to the Ivory Knight and grabs the chest plate. "Now get out of there!"
Metal groans and snaps loose, exposing the cockpit of the Ivory Knight. Wes hurriedly rips at the straps holding him in the chair, his panic hindering him.
"Shitshitshitshitshitshit! Why won't they let go?" He somehow undoes them but his exit is blocked by the face of the Ebony Knight. He can see the many apertures inside its eyes adjusting to the new light. A frightening chill runs down his spine as he looks up at that giant face.
The Ebony's massive hands reach down inside the fallen machine and wrap around its cockpit.
"THAT'S ENOUGH HISAO!" someone shouts before he can rip the control center out of the chest of the Ivory Knight.
Several mages with the school show up and climb into the cockpit and subdue Wes before he can get away. As he falls, a butterfly knife drops out of his coat sleeve.
"Oh ho… What do we have here?" asks one mage as she kneels down to pick it up. "Good thing he never got a chance to use this."
Hisao looks over, causing Corentin to look too. Both boys see Reina and a couple of other girls, the brunette of the three supporting Reina. Joining them is Setsuna, Kaede, and Negi.
"Hey… Hisao…" Konoka thinks aloud. "Hisao Ishikawa? The boy I had a marriage meeting with?"
Hisao plays it off cooly. "You must be confusing me with someone else." He hopes lowering his voice will work.
"Marriage meeting?" Reina asks. "People still do those? Anyway, that's my brother so his name would be Hisao Whitehall."
"Oh. I was just thinking that since the Hisao I met mentioned liking robots and al…" Konoka catches a glimpse of the connections behind Reina's ears which serves as a catalyst for her mind to make its own connection. "Oh! He had those connections behind his ears too!"
"Was he about so tall," asks Reina and measures him out on herself with her hand, "with black hair and a grumpy attitude?"
"Yup!" Konoka says, a strange amount of pep in her voice. "I think we had a fun time. We bought those make-them-yourself teddy bears for each other."
"You're dating my friend, Hisao?" Reina asks.
"No. She has me confused for someone else. Other people have the name Hisao you know." Reina leaves Konoka behind as she limps her way over to the Ebony Knight. "Are you okay?"
"I leapt out of a speeding car to save you, and I guess I got a little banged up. Like old times, right?"
"I… I can't deal with this. I'll catch you around sometime, sister." Hisao turns and tries getting away.
Reina commands him in English. "NO YOU DON'T! Hisao, as your older sister, I want you get over here and talk to me." She does her best to stomp her foot.
"Are you finally ready to hear me out?" Hisao asks as they both lapse into English, losing everyone who isn't either a good student or teacher.
"I'm not talking about that. We're siblings, and it's not right for us to be this... This… separated from each other. Come back home."
"You know I can't. He'd never take me back. And he doesn't deserve either of us, you especially."
"Well… At least come out and meet my friends. Your… friend can come too. Please Hisao."
The Ebony Knight turns back and opens its hatch. The Falchion opens up too as Corentin emerges. When Corentin and Hisao meet up with the group, Konoka recognizes both boys.
"That's the two I had meetings with!" she says.
"Good going little bro," Reina says and bumps him on the arm. The disparity between their heights is noticeable.
"It's not like that," Hisao replies coldly. "Her deranged grandfather set everything up."
Reina gives her brother a depressed look. "Why don't you come and meet everyone?" Even though she asked, she doesn't give much choice as she forces him along. "Everyone, this is my brother Hisao and his friend…" She looks at Corentin for a moment. "You look familiar."
"Corentin Catherine-Verliane. A bus stop we met at."
"Oh! That neat retro flight helmet," Reina remembers. "I recognize you now."
Hisao and Negi meet face-to-face, the black haired boy standing taller than the teacher. Negi feels the chill of the other boy's ice cold glare. He stifles a shudder.
"So you are Negi Springfield," Hisao says directly.
"Er… Yes. I am." Negi doesn't know what else to say. Hisao's gaze is devastating.
"And you're Asuna Kagurazaka," Hisao names her correctly. She too can feel the power of his stare, and recalls the few times she's been under Takahata's fabled Death Specs.
"Say… How did you know our names?"
Hisao explains. "My sister didn't tell you? Hmph. Figures. Well anyway, once we are in the Knights, we can explore computer networks like going for a walk. It's not that hard. Once I found her, I studied the rest of you."
"Okay." Under her breath, Asuna adds, "That's a bit creepy."
"Uh… What else do you know?" Negi asks, worried he may have found out all kinds of things he shouldn't have.
Hisao seemingly ignores him in favor of turning back to Reina. His voice filled with its usual dissatisfaction, he tells her, "Okay, I'm done meeting your… friends. And since you're unwilling to listen to me, I'm going to leave now. I'm sure our father will be along any time now and I will not be in the same place as him."
"Aww…" Konoka says. "I was hoping my gift would have made you feel a little better. Did it do anything?"
"Not doing anything for him it is sadly," Coretin tells her.
"Corentin!" Hisao admonishes. He turns back to Reina. "Listen… There's something you have to hear me out on."
"If it's about your ideology, I don't want to hear it Hisao. You need to drop it. You'll never get me to think that way."
"No. When it comes to that, you'll hear me out in time. Can we go somewhere private?"
Reina sighs a sigh that is typically followed by the word fine. "Fine. The Ebony's cockpit will do."
As they leave the group behind, Corentin levels an uneasy smile at everyone. He feels so out of place. "So… Repairs will be paid for by InfinIT, no?"
"You're not a native speaker, are you?" Asuna asks. "Should fit in with Negi then."
"Oh! He is a speaker of French peut-être?"
"Nah. Negi's English."
"C'est tellement dommage!"
Negi laughs. "You will have to excuse Asuna-san. She can barely speak English. Foreign languages are a mystery to her."
"So what's up?" Reina asks inside the Ebony's cabin. She hasn't been in here in quite a while, even longer since she's piloted it. They used to do that. Pilot each other's preferred machine. The thought of that brings back a bitter sense of nostalgia to Reina.
The both speak to each other in English. "I guess, no matter what, you're going to have to hear me out because this is important."
Reina finally breaks, tired of listening to his constant hammering of the issue. "Okay. Fine. What?"
"Really? I never thought you'd break down. Listen, I don't know how you'll take this. But I am here for you and maybe when this is over, you'll be willing to join me."
"I doubt it, but let's have it."
"William… Well, he is your father."
Reina stares blankly at him for a moment. "I already know that. Thanks to a guy called 'The Aritficer,' dad actually told me straight to my face." She mutters, "Where were you all those chapters ago?"
"And you're okay with that?" Hisao asks angrily.
"I'm actually quite happy about it. I have a father. And he could still be yours too."
Hisao actually looks shaken. "WHAT KIND OF MAN WOULD DO THIS TO HIS OWN CHILD?"
"Chill dude," Reina advises. "I look at it like this. Yeah, I was pissed when I found out there was the possibility. But there's not a damn thing I can do to change that. I've gotta be happy about what I've got, not be angry or sad about what I don't."
"That's your problem. You don't have the motivation. I don't think you're ready to hear what else I have to say."
"No. Lay it on me. Might as well be done with this nonsense once and for all."
"I want to show everyone our power. That we're superior. The two of us together could—
His sister slaps the taste out of his mouth. "Stop right there. Did you not just notice my machine got hacked? And what's with that idea? You want to rule the world or something? What kind of megalomaniac are you?"
Hisao rubs the red spot on his face. "Don't tell me they don't deserve it. And with our mechs, we could do it. Entire armies would fall before us."
"No, they don't. Despite what you may think, they're no better than us. We're both ordinary humans, just like them. You've changed Hisao… For the worse. I don't know what happened, but I don't want to talk to you until you throw away that stupid idea.
"And if you think I'll stand idly by and let you even try, I won't. I'll fight you. I'll fight you until you stop."
"No Hisao. I think you need to go make some friends. But I know you've always been distant." She hugs him. Hisao doesn't struggle to break out.
She continues. "If I could, I'd turn back the clock and change dad's mind about choosing you. Maybe that would have changed things. Maybe you would have grown into a proper young man. Perhaps some people aren't cut out to be like me.
"If that wouldn't have happened, perhaps you'd have been a normal boy, without all the suffering you've experienced. But I want you to know that you're never alone. I'll always be your sister, even if you run to the other end of the Earth. You can always talk to me about anything."
Hisao doesn't know how to respond. "I…"
"Nothing." Deep down in his stomach, he feels sick. He's confused and unused to being treated with any modicum of kindness, especially recently.
Reina continues to hold him for a little longer. She releases him and puts her hand on his head. "I know Negi could always use a few more male friends, so you're free to hang around with us if you want."
"No… I… I need some time to think by myself."
"Okay. Just be careful. What Wes did to me could easily happen to you."
Hisao nods. "Right. Goodbye Reina."
"See you later." Reina waves and rides the Ebony's winch down.
Once she's on the ground, she thinks back and states, "I never asked him why he was going to the school here. Or why he was using a fake name…" She shrugs it off and joins everyone else. "Hey, uh, Corentin, Hisao's getting ready to leave."
"Ah, I shall goodbye myself then," he says and makes his way into the Falchion and heads off with Hisao.
"No offense Reina," Asuna says, "but your brother's creepy. His gaze is just… Overwhelming."
"Eh… He's been in a rather dark place for a while and I think I've finally started getting through to him. He just needs some friends. I told him he could hang around with us. Hopefully that's okay with everyone."
"Of course," Negi tells her. "The usual clauses about magic and everything still apply though."
"Right right." Reina sighs. "Well, now to go look at the twisted, burning, wreckage that is my life." She hobbles over to the Ivory Knight and is greeted by mages from the school. "Look, I'm sorry what happened. And I won't ever keep that here again, provided it ever functions again."
"Your machine is very dangerous, yes. But the damage left behind is nothing for the science division of Mahora academy." The male mage says the last part with a wink.
Reina takes a moment. "OH! Okay. Say… Any way of fixing my machine?"
"Nnnnot really. We'll be able fix the buildings and change the memories of citizens, but something this high tech would take far too long," he puts a hand on her shoulder. "Sorry kid. But we did contact your father when this started happening so he'll be able to pick up your machine here soon."
Nearby, Wes is getting placed inside a typical police vehicle.
"So what's going to happen to him?" Negi asks while pointing at the head of InfinIT.
"Oh, he'll get what's coming to him. Corporate espionage, theft, grand scale destruction of public property, and I know Kaminari's probably going to sue for the destruction of their mech."
Reina says, "Say, did he have a phone on him? He stole mine."
"Uh… There was one in your robot. We confiscated his. I suppose this one is yours then?" He hands her the phone she had just gotten this morning, along with all the stuff attached to it.
"Thanks a lot. Still, I'm sorry about all of this." She looks at the phone. "Hey… Isn't this a controller? What the hell? What a jury rigged little system."
"Looks like a mess," Konoka says.
Eddie runs along to the train depot where the mobile platform that was supposed to carry the Ivory Knight to its new home. He hustles along, stumbling over an inconveniently placed trash can. Bits of debris spill out, offering to trip him up as he gets back up. He stumbles on some pieces but keeps his balance enough to keep from tripping up. He enters the station and hurries up to the train.
"VINNY!" He huffs and puffs as he comes to a stop. "Vinny! We got problems!"
Vinny looks down from the conductor's seat. "Yeah, I noticed. InfinIT's done."
"What…" He continues breathing heavy. "What do we… do?"
Vinny reaches into his own coat pocket and pulls out another phone like device. "I was told that, in the case of something like this, to press the button on this thing three times." He holds it up and wiggles it up and down like one would do with a pencil.
"Do it then."
Vinny looks at it a moment and says, casually, "No."
"What? Why not?"
"Listen Ed… We've taken shit from him for the last time. And I don't feel like getting wrapped up in any court proceedings that this little stunt is going to cause. So Wes Kline can go to hell for all I care now. I've saved up a fair bit of money, despite not being paid too well since he lost Ozzy. Yeah, I feel bad for the poor girl we victimized, but again, I'm looking out for number one and that's all that matters."
"If you're that concerned, go ahead and press it," Vinny tosses it to Eddie. "I wash my hand of this." Vinny pulls a handle and the train slowly begins to roll, making Ed walk along.
"I don't know…"
"Either way, I'm outta here. Probably be heading back to the U.S. or something to go job hunting again. You want to come along, you're more than welcome."
Eddie aims for the nearest basket and tosses the control towards it. It bounces off the rim and falls to the floor as he climbs aboard. "I think that might be the best thing to do."
An attendant, who was watching the two crooks talk to each other, leaves her booth to go pick up the device Eddie threw. She looks it over and takes it behind the counter and places it in a recycle bin.
Mana closes her rifle case. The experiment had some worthwhile results, despite her pride being wounded. She knows now what she expected, that it's bulletproof. They definitely know how to build those things.
"And now we know to not shoot her should the opportunity arise," Chao says from behind her. "Unless you've got some AP rounds or something. Even then, I wouldn't be sure." Mana remains stoic. Chao continues, "We learned quite a bit today and that's what matters. It is good thing I sent those blueprints to InfinIT too. With any luck, the 'Ivory Knight 2' won't be making an appearance at Mahorafest."
"So there will be a second one?" asks Satomi.
Chao answers, "I can't say. Ever since she showed up, things have been out of order. Perhaps I'm the source of distortion. Either way, I am prepared. We've got Hisao and Corentin, should we need them. I feel a little bad, stringing them along like this, but it's necessary. And after what's probably gone on down there, I think he might be having a crisis of resolve."
"So what do we do?" Satomi asks.
"Dangle the carrot a bit differently," Chao answers. "I'm standing on a hell of a fork in the road."
Satomi looks at Chao strangely before adjusting her glasses. Nothing has been normal this school year.
Negima: Femella Intra Machina Chapter 15: End
End of the Chapter Stuff: So… Not much to say here, except I still have a bit of work to do and I'm looking forward to the upcoming "Catherine" game. I also picked up "Resident Evil: Mercenaries 3D." And I'd give it a meh out of I can't be bothered to give it a numerical score. Bit of buyer's regret there and since you can't delete the save, no one's gonna want it.
Also, E3 was depressing this year. About the only thing I'm excited for, aside from the aforementioned Catherine, is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. And because of that, I'm going to try and get a few chapters ahead since I LOVE the Elder Scrolls games and can easily spend several hundred hours with them. (That's kinda sad really but be damned if they aren't the most fun I've had with a game series outside Pokemon.)
Anyway, I've rambled on too long already.
Thanks To: The Ansem Man for once again for proofing and a wall to bounce things off of.
And thanks to you for reading and making this story what it is!