Chapter 5: The Second Fall
Sitting behind his desk in his study, Lelouch was looking at a monitor showing the news while on call with one of his subordinates.
"Even now, thirty hours since detonation, the fires continue to spread across the surface of Orussia. The Time-Space Administration Bureau has dispatched Rescue and Relief forces to the planet ten hours ago and they just now have made planet fall. Although it is too dangerous to get any closer to the scene, we will do our best to continue our coverage off..."
Lelouch's eyes turned away from the burning image onto the image of Madoka.
"Can't we send some people to assist?" the girl asked.
"Rescue and Relief forces are already on site," Lelouch replied, tapping a finger on his desk. "There is no point to sending our people as well. Besides, it's not part of our jurisdiction unless EDEN makes an appearance there."
"But..." Madoka muttered as she looked to the side, where her own monitor was showing the damage.
Lelouch looked at her for a long while before letting out a long sigh.
"That is all I have to say on the matter, Madoka," Lelouch said, indicating he did not want to continue the conversation. "We are not miracle makers."
"I understand..." the young woman nodded.
"I'm glad you do. Now goodnight."
As the call ended, Lelouch turned his gaze back at the news cast.
"For those of you just tuning in, we are currently in the middle of our orbital coverage of Orussia which is...or rather was embroiled in a civil war over Lost Logia. A few years ago, the TSAB had determined that several of the relics of a religious organization on the planet to be Lost Logia and attempted to retrieve it with the support of the local government. Certain factions of the religion...reacted poorly to the decision and rebelled, leading up tot he current situation seen here. Within recent months, the last of the religious dissenters had been cornered and the end of the war in sight. However, we believe that rather than let the Lost Logia be taken, the dissenters chose to destroy them...with this being the result..."
Lelouch turned his head up and saw Einhalt, dressed in her pajamas, standing in the doorway with one arm wrapped around the Cheese-kun plushy and the other hand rubbing her eye.
"What is it, Einhalt?" Lelouch asked, muting the news cast.
"You said you'd read me a story..." the girl replied, showing him a book she was holding behind the plush toy.
Lelouch blinked as he turned toward the clock which showed 2137.
"O-oh I did," he nodded, standing up from his desk. "I'm sorry. I got caught up with work and..."
A small beeping at his desk caused him to turn back down toward it.
"Sorry...Father needs to take a look at this," Lelouch said with a sigh as he pointed toward one of the chairs near the door. "Can you just wait there for me?"
"Okay..." Einhalt nodded as she climbed onto the chair and waited, allowing Lelouch to sit back down and open the message.
"The request for the new base went through. That's good...now all that is needed is the personnel and the supplies. Well, we can just have the Worms mimic some volunteers from Castle Base. They don't need much space above ground. Looks like the budget has been included but I will have to acquire the materials myself. That's no problem. However...I'll need to assign a separate base commander. I need Mami to help with Castle Base...there was that one Worm who already imitated me but...people would get suspicious if there were two of me running around. Do I have to use Suzaku or Jeremiah then?"
As was promised, the Blackthorn Hive had surrendered themselves to Lelouch before the end of the year. It was one good thing that came out of taking in an entirely new species.
The logistics of setting up a living ground for the Worms as well as keep them close to the 501st Command had been a nightmare as the only spot available was up in Northern Mid-Childa.
Since their integration into the TSAB, several sanctions have been put onto the Blackthorn Worms. Most of the sanctions were simple things like being allowed to research and study the Worms, which the Blackthorns accepted without question. Others, like the ridiculous breeding limit was fought with such aggression that they nearly attacked the negotiators.
It was eventually repealed, with Lindy Harlaown and Lelouch himself supporting the repeal. It was a terrible sanction to put on a race that was dying out after all. By the hands of the TSAB to boot.
Since then, the Blackthorn were put under his command as their leaders refused to accept anyone else. They made the deal with Lelouch and they will only follow him. It was a lot of trust they were putting into him, especially since being betrayed by Eternal's man caused them to lose even more trust in humans. However, it was worth it.
The Blackthorns were the perfect addition to a force that was to combat EDEN. In so far, they really only had three people that could actively combat EDEN's Worms. Homura, Suzaku, and TheBee. With the Blackthorns, they would be able to balance the scales a bit. He couldn't send many of them out at once though...at most maybe two dozen or risk lowering the population too much.
He had been trusted to defend them so they may repopulate, not to use them as soldiers. Despite what many of them seemed to want.
Many Worms were quickly integrated themselves into the Black Knights command, imitating random base personnel left and right, forcing the TSAB to rule that any Worms that imitated humans had to physically change their appearance due to the TSAB not wanting them to take the lives of their soldiers to which Lelouch and the Blackthorns agreed to.
Notable examples included how Culex Worm added a large scar to his face after imitating Lelouch himself or how Epilachna Worm added several hair colors to Sayaka's blue...or how Subst Worm shrank Mami's...
Lelouch shook his head and rubbed his eyes with his right hand.
Truly, a Worm's transformation ability was amazing.
Of course...several Worms did not change their attributes when transformed on Lelouch's orders to make them perfect spies...hidden from the rest of the Bureau of course.
It is a horrible thing when allies spy on each other but the Bureau is less of a government organization and more of a bureaucracy whose sole purpose was the cataloging and storage of Lost Logia.
Back to the problem of setting up the new base's personnel to keep watch over the Hive.
"No...Jeremiah is out of the question. I need him here in Central. Suzaku then? Sayaka might get annoyed at the relocation but if we install a teleporter on site and at Castle Base then the distance will become irrelevant."
His eyes then shot open as he remembered that Einhalt was still here.
Turning his head up, he saw that the girl was still sitting on the chair with her head tilting back and forth as she desperately tried to stay awake.
Lelouch clicked his tongue, frustrated at himself for forgetting about her in favor for work, stood up, and walked over to her. Kneeling down he shook her shoulder gently, causing the Einhalt to jerk awake and look around before looking straight at him.
"Ready to go to bed?" he asked with a small smile.
"Yeah..." Einhalt nodded as she rubbed her eyes.
"Ok then, up you go," Lelouch said as he picked her up in his arms, allowing her to sit up in them. Despite almost being four years old, she was still small and light, something that bothered him, but Shamal said that she was most likely a late bloomer, like Madoka was. "So which story did you want me to read to-"
He was cut off as another beeping sound came from his desk.
"Eii...what now?" he asked as he walked out of the study towards Einhalt's room, moving his free hand up to open a call window. "What is it?"
"I take it it's a bad time?" a dark haired man asked as he folded his arms on the other side of the call.
"Just hurry up, Maxilla," Lelouch said irritably causing the disguised Worm to smile. "What is it?"
"Got an update on one of the jobs you pushed on us," the Worm, Camponotus Maxilla, replied. "It's about that...what do you call it...Charity was it? About the charity that was shipping food to Orussia before it blew up."
"You mean the Everlasting Garden Charity?" Lelouch asked as he set Einhalt down on her bed. "I mean, it was only a whim that I had your Worms investigate but you're not telling me that it actually is an EDEN front?"
The EGC was a charity that went around to various planets that were in need to deliver food. Public information showed that they owned various plots of farmland and grew or raised nearly everything they sent and were largely a non-profit organization that accepted donations from their members and or the public.
Despite their flawless record however, their name made Lelouch suspicious. The others, Kyouko and Sayaka in particular, had called him paranoid but no one could say that he didn't have a reason to be paranoid considering what had happened last Christmas.
"Not exactly," the Worm replied. "We learned that there is absolutely nothing suspicious about the farms. Though we can't get permission to investigate their private sectors, there isn't anything suspicious about their HQ or their farms. Not even signs of a underground Worm hive like we initially suspected. In short, it's clean."
"As far as we can tell without writing up a false search warrant...ah...!"
Lelouch's eyes darted back toward Einhalt only to see tat the girl was fast asleep as she was unable to strive of sleeping long enough for him to finish the conversation. Her hand was also clutching the back of his shirt.
"I'll contact you in the morning for more details," Lelouch said irritably as he took the book from Einhalt's stomach, pulled the blanket over her body and tucked her in. "In the meantime try to find anything you can on EG."
"Well...there was one thing Culex found strange," Maxilla said, raising a finger and halting Lelouch in his tracks. "In the last three hours before detonation, every shuttle delivering food to Orussia was suddenly recalled off planet."
Lelouch raised an eyebrow at that. Certainly it was suspicious but EDEN had no reason to not warn people if the rebels were going to detonate the Lost Logia.
On the other hand, it would serve to prove just how useless and horrible attempting to collect Lost Logias from the various planets was. On the other other hand...they claimed to protect the people and due to the detonation, millions of lives were lost and countless more will be displaced as the planet starts to slowly die. It would further cement their own reputation if they had managed to warn the populace about it instead.
If it had been up to Lelouch...which choice would he have made?
"The first...is more Eternal's style..." he muttered.
"What was that?" Maxilla asked.
"Nothing. I suppose there isn't anyway we can find out for sure. It's too far of a jump to say that EG was in on the explosion and they could all be on the same schedule or something. There are too many possible explanations for that coincidence and we don't have the resources to confirm them all."
"So what do you suggest then?"
Lelouch held his hand to his mouth in thought for a moment before speaking.
"We'll just have to investigate Orussia ourselves, specifically the points where EG were operating and, if possible, as close to Ground Zero as we can feasibly operate without intruding too much on the Rescue and Relief Forces," he replied. "I'll have Madoka oversee this operation. She isn't good at planning, but when it comes to helping people, she knows what to do. Can I ask you and a detachment of your Worms to go with her as protection and for you to oversee the actual investigation."
Maxilla looked off to the side for a moment, as if staring at some off screen image before turning back toward Lelouch.
"I remember watching my world burn as I left it with EDEN years ago," Maxilla suddenly said. "How entire landmasses were breaking apart or sinking under the waves along with most of our populations. If the Whitestorm were involved and too blinded by anger to warn another planet of an equally catastrophic event, then you have my support and the support of my Brood sibling. Our hive is in your hands, General. You need not ask, only order."
"A simple 'yes' would have sufficed but I appreciate your support and trust," Lelouch nodded.
"Do not squander it," Maxilla said dully. "Is there a reason you are not overseeing this operation yourself, General?"
"I have other matters to attend to," Lelouch replied, turning his gaze down at Einhalt. "Matters closer to home and far more important than the TSAB."
March 29th of the Seventy-First year on the Modern Era calender.
A man with jet black hair and purple eyes, with a scar running down the center of his face, stared at several monitors hanging in front of him.
"Transports without mounted weapons. Over reliance on individual 'Elite Mages' for shooting and artillery rather than actual weapons. Lack of resistance versus mass weaponry. Reluctance to use mass weaponry. Lack of resolve to kill..."
He then stopped talking to turn around to look at a red haired woman sitting on a couch behind him.
"Putting aside monsters such as the Kamen Riders or Akemi Homura...EDEN has an overwhelming advantage in terms of ground combat, don't you agree, Sakura Kyouko?"
"You know, it's really scary if you talk while looking like that," Kyouko said as she looked at the man.
"Is it the scar?" the man asked. "I'm not really creative enough to change the appearance too much so the visible scar is enough, shouldn't it?"
"No, I'm talking about the entire look," Kyouko clarified, pointing at the man. "Talking like that while you look like Lelouch gives me goosebumps."
"Hahaha, I can't help it. His personality and motives are so powerful it's nearly overwhelming my core one. As someone who came from a technologically powerful world where giant robots are the main weapon of war, he seems constantly agitated at how...what's the word...limiting the TSAB is."
"Sounds like you understand him well."
"Of course," the man said, as he sat down behind the desk. "At this moment, I am him after all. It's a high honor for me, one whose main purpose before was akin to a mere squad commander."
"Moving up in the world then, Worm?" Kyouko asked with a smirk.
"Both figuratively and literally, Human," Culex Worm nodded. "We Worms tend to prefer to build underground hives after all. But really...the decorations in this room are...depressing."
Kyouko merely shrugged as she turned to look toward the wall opposite of the General's Chair.
On the wall were several photographs with black drapes around them. At the very top left was a woman with green hair, the drapes covering her face completely. To the right of that picture was a man with orange hair. The wall had three lines full of such images.
"Because he can no longer die, he makes it his duty to remember all those who did die for him," Culex sighed as he spun around in his chair.
"Guy knows what he wants..." Kyouko shrugged.
"But really, coming up with a way to integrate our Soldiers into the 501st Battalion by having us impersonate current 501st soldiers with physical changes...clever."
"Still haven't found one to impersonate me though it seems?" Kyouko asked.
"Female Worms are...rare to say the least. Most of them belonging to the Nurser or Breeder caste, whose numbers are only in the dozens so we can't really risk them out in the open. The Workers are still digging out our Hive as well so we are only focusing on Scouters and Soldiers at this time."
"So the only option is for a male to impersonate me?"
"Yes...finding one strong enough and willing though. Few beings would willing undergo a change of sexes for a long term job after all."
"Subst didn't seem to have any problems turning into Mami."
"Well, you do get the occasional exceptions. It's like that with Humans too isn't it?"
"I don't personally know any extreme cases though..." Kyouko shrugged. "Though...I'm surprised Lelouch is keeping you around. Copying his memories like that..."
"I'm sure he has plans to take me down if I get out of hand," Culex said waving it off.
"You sure sound casual about someone planning to kill you."
"You make it sound like the General never has anyone planning to kill him."
"Fair enough. Where is he anyway?"
"I believe he's going on 'vacation' isn't he?"
"Do you really have to go?"
Lelouch turned around back toward Einhalt and Mami.
Einhalt was looking up at him with tears in her eyes as he knelt down in front of her, shifting his shoulder bag a bit and setting his steel suitcase on the ground and the case with his clothes to the side.
"I'm sorry but it's for work," Lelouch said as he gave her a quick hug. "I can't ask someone else to do this because it's very dangerous and even I'm not sure what exactly I should be doing."
"But..." Einhalt muttered as she lowered her head. "You'll be gone for a month..."
"Come now, you're a big girl now, almost four years old," Lelouch said as he placed his hands on her cheeks and tugged the ends of her lips upward. "Don't make that face."
Einhalt simply shook her head and buried her face into his chest.
"First boarding call for Nonadministrative Planet 27! All Passengers for Nonadministrative Planet 27 Eushully, please begin boarding procedures immediately."
"That's my flight," Lelouch said as he looked behind him and Einhalt tightened her grip on his shirt but Mami quickly walked over and pulled her away, picking the girl up in her arms as she did. "I'll buy you a souvenir on the way back. Anything you want?"
"A ticket to go too..." Einhalt mumbled as Mami let out a small giggle at Lelouch's surprised face.
"She certainly has your wit if nothing else," Mami said Lelouch's mouth twitched upward. "Are you sure she doesn't have your genes?"
"What can I say?" Lelouch asked as he leaned over, and kissed Einhalt on the forehead. "I'm a bad influence on everyone. Madoka will be back in a week to take her of your hands when she gets back from Orussia. In the meantime, continue the Blackthorn Hive's integration with the 501st. Make sure all Lancer and Saber teams are familiar with Worm Physiology and Anatomy to both neutralize and stabilize them accordingly."
"Understood," Mami nodded as she turned toward Einhalt. "Okay Einhalt-chan, say goodbye to your father before he leaves."
"Mami..." Lelouch said quickly, causing her to look at him inquisitively. "Remember what Madoka says? 'It's not 'Goodbye,' but 'See you later.'"
"Oh my, yes. How silly of me."
"Come back soon..." Einhalt muttered sadly as she waved her hand at him.
"Ahh, I will."
With that, Lelouch turned and headed toward his shuttle.
"Gotta love First-Class travel," Lelouch said as he stuffed his bag into an overhead compartment while leaving his suitcase on his lap as he sat down on his seat, which was more or less a giant comfortable pod that allowed for privacy as well as surround sound entertainment.
But of course, Lelouch was not here for pleasure.
He was heading to the planet in order to find a magic animal to turn into a familiar. That way, he'd have something that would protect Einhalt for him when he wasn't around and Eushully was the perfect place to search due to its wide spectrum of magical animals.
Since the 501st became a dedicated Anti-EDEN unit and the creation of the Northern base, he was forced to return to work on base, leaving his daughter with Jeremiah whenever she wasn't in nursery.
Not that either them minded too much. Jeremiah had some company and Einhalt got to have some baked sweets and hard candy. Her adult teeth still hadn't grown in so her diet was still extremely limited. It wouldn't have been so bad if it was her front teeth...
However, he couldn't impose on Jeremiah, no matter how much the man said it was his duty. Especially considering Lelouch needed Jeremiah to be in the background to avoid detection from any of his enemies and so his identity as Kamen Rider TheBee would remain a secret as he was his best weapon to use against Worms.
Lelouch rubbed his eyes for a moment before pulling his hand away and looking at it.
He then looked to his left and then to his right.
"Now that I think of it...this is the first time in three years..." he mumbled. "The first time I'm away from Einhalt. Heh...I can't believe I'm feeling lonely..."
Shaking his head, he pulled out a notebook and began looking through the list of the animal population on Eushully to thin out the possible choices.
"I'm sorry to leave Einhalt-chan with you on your day off," Mami said as Kyouko tapped the window of the microwave.
"No problem," the red head replied. "You have to oversee the newbies after all. Besides, the kid's simple enough to distract. Give her a can of juice, turn on the TV and let her watch."
"She's sitting far away from the TV at least...?" Mami asked rubbing her eyes.
"Meh, far enough."
Over in the living room, Einhalt was sitting right in front of the TV as she took a sip from her can.
It's only been a day since her father left and she was already missing him.
"Muu..." she sighed as she sipped her drink, only to find out that it was empty. "All gone..."
She stood up to put the can into the blue bin when she saw the can that Kyouko had been drinking from sitting on the coffee table. The writing on the can was a lot different from the one that Einhalt was drinking out off. Maybe it was a different flavor?
It might be okay to try a little bit, right?
She put her can down and picked the other one up, sniffing the opening.
"Smells weird..." she frowned as she brought the opening to her lips.
"By the way...you're not drinking are you?" Mami asked.
"Haha, of course not," Kyouko laughed. "There's a kid here after all."
A small thud caught her attention and Kyouko turned toward it.
Einhalt was flat on her back with her can spilling out onto the floor.
"What? What happened?"
"Uhh...something violent got turned on! I gotta go change the channel! See ya!"
And with that, Kyouko cut the call and ran towards the unconscious girl.
"Crap, she did drink from it after all..." Kyouko groaned as she placed a hand on the girl's red face and spiraling eyes. "Gonna have to keep this to myself..."
"Understand?" a woman with multicolored hair and blue eyes asked as she tapped the monitor behind her. "When a Worm takes on a human form, our bodies are more or less human at that point. We become fragile but that means human healing techniques will work on us."
In front of her were several Black Knight officers with blue sword patches on their uniforms.
Saber Company. The Black Knight's Second Company with the general purpose of deploying aid and support to the other companies and civilian interests. It is made up of four platoons: Cutlass, Longsword, Claymore, and Katana.
Katana was the 501st's Rapid Response platoon with the main point being that they were to assist civilians in the event of disasters, natural or otherwise.
Claymore was the Anti-Explosives Platoon. They were deployed to remove explosives either surgically or with brute force.
Longsword was the Extraction Platoon, one that has seen the most action to date due to the constant attacks by EDEN.
The final and most important platoon, Cutlass, contained the combat medics, which were currently studying how to treat their Worm allies.
Saber Company was currently being led by Miki Sayaka who was standing in the back of the room, watching the woman wearing her face speak with an exasperated expression.
"For the most part," the woman continued. "We can use our extra mass to regenerate, but some injuries are just impossible to heal. Things like the venom of certain Worms are also potent enough to transfer the scars received on the human forms back to the Worm form. For the more grievous wounds, it would be best to leave it to another Worm to treat...but then if it's something like that, they would probably be dead anyway..."
The lecture went on for an hour before the room was excused and the listeners funneled out of the room. As the last of them left, Sayaka walked up toward her doppelganger.
"You keep making that face when you look at me," the woman said. "Something you don't like?"
"You know damn well what I don't like, Epilachna!" Sayaka replied as she thrust her finger at the Worm's face. "What's more...why the hell did you switch to neon colors today?"
"What, wouldn't you do this too if you had the power to alter your appearance on a whim?" Epilachna asked as she rubbed her fringe. "It's your fault you know."
Sayaka made an exasperated noise with her throat as she turned and walked out of the room with Epilachna following her.
"So, how's it going with Suzaku?" Epilachna asked, trying to make conversation.
"Why do you want to know?" Sayaka asked back.
"That tells me it's either going bad or stagnant."
Sayaka merely grunted in reply.
"Come now, you know Suzaku's a little dense on the romantic side outside of those big white knight rescues. You gotta be more aggressive. Why not start in saying you want to live in an actual house rather than just sharing an apartment? It's been almost two months since the move after all."
"Why are you saying things like that with my face?"
"Because it has nothing to do with me, nyahaha!"
"Oh, Sayaka, Epilachna, good morning. Getting along as usual, huh?"
Sayaka turned her head and saw Suzaku turning around the corner.
"O-oh, morning," Sayaka said as she released Epilachna's collar.
"Morning..." Epilachna greeted softly.
"Hmm? It's stars today?"
"Stars?" Sayaka repeated as she turned toward Epilachna only to see that the neon colors had been replaced by a solid light blue with several dark blue imprints in the shape of stars. "Will you stop that!"
"Why? Suzaku seems to like it."
"Hahaha...oh by the way, Sayaka. I think I saw Cochlea Worm in the infirmary."
"Hmm?" Sayaka asked as she pulled on Epilachna's cheeks. "Oh, is it already that time?"
"He's still at it?" Epilachna asked. "Those wounds are never going to go away no matter how much you try, Sayaka. He's a Zero Victim after all."
"Zero...Victim?" Suzaku asked.
"Oh, that's what we call the poor bastards who were at Ground Zero of the Bureau's attack on our planet who didn't have the good fortune to die. We Worms are a very close knit community. We all share a...how do I explain this...let's say a close link with one another. Being born in broods tends to do that for you. Through this link we are connected to each other in some way to the point that we sometimes feel that the other is a part of ourselves. Now imagine if through that link you can hear everyone around you screaming in pain as your home burns down around you and you feel it whenever someone just vanishes. It's why nearly every Nurser died in all the hives. They not only have a link to the other Nursers, they also have a link to our eggs. I don't think you can imagine what its like to hear the screams of dying unborn children if I can't even understand it. Hell, I think the only Zero Victim Nurser that survived was Scorpio Worm."
"That guy used to be a Nurser?" Sayaka asked incredulously. "That tough bastard that shrugs off both magic and bullets and tore a hole in Homura's stomach?"
"Yeah, I wouldn't have believed it myself if he didn't spend all his time in their egg chambers. Granted I only visited the Whitestorm Hive for two days."
"Is it strange to do something like that if you're not a Nurser?" Suzaku asked.
"Hmm...I suppose if there was a human equivalent...think of it as hanging out in the room where newborns are put into in a hospital and all of them are crying...multiply that by a hundred."
"The crying would probably drive you insane..."
"Exactly. But Nursers are bred to handle that kind of stress in order to take care of the eggs. Which is why we are having problems repopulating. Nearly every single one of ours died. Fighting against the TSAB certainly didn't help with our numbers, especially when the General was going bat-shit in our old-new Hive last year. Anyway, time to go visit Cochlea again, right, Sayaka?"
"Right..." Sayaka nodded in thought. "See you later, Suzaku."
"Yeah," Suzaku nodded as he walked away. "Oh, what time do you think you'll get back tonight?"
"Hmm? Around normal?"
"I see..." Suzaku said before adding something that sounded suspiciously like, "I can work with that."
He then left, holding his chin in thought.
"Something suspicious," Epilachna said as she stick her face over Sayaka's shoulder to watch Suzaku walk away. "He's probably having another woman over and wants to know when to kick her out."
"Suzaku isn't that type of guy!" Sayaka shouted as she pushed Epilachna's face away.
"How sure are you?"
"Ugh...there is no way I can be this annoying!"
"'Hey Madoka, you're going out with Homura right?'" Epilachna said in a dull monotone causing Sayaka to freeze up. "'You're not? You're living together aren't you? You even share the same bed! You can't just be friends like that! Come on, you can tell me! I think even Nanoha and Fate are planning to do the same thing! Better set them straight or bad things might happen!'"
"S-shut up!" Sayaka said as she turned around and stomped down the hall with Epilachna snickering behind her.
When Sayaka entered her office, she saw a large and muscular bald man with a heavy burn scar on half of his face stretching down to his chest, sitting on the patient table. His eyes seemed unfocused but his head turned toward Sayaka and Epilachna the moment she opened the door.
"Good morning...Doctor..." he said slowly.
"Good morning, Cochlea," Sayaka replied. "Back for more treatment?"
"Even though those scars won't go away?" Epilachna asked.
"Don't mind...scars," the male Worm said, either not hearing Epilachna or just choosing to ignore her, as he rubbed his hand on his face. "Doctor help forget..."
"Yes, I do," Sayaka said kindly as she walked over to him while Epilachna took a seat at the doctor's desk and watched as Sayaka moved her hand, which had a white circle with music notes. "What did you do today?"
"I helped dig."
"Is that right? How far did you dig today?"
"Deep...found this...for doctor..."
Sayaka felt her eyes boggle as Cochlea pulled out a large uncut blue stone from his pocket and held it up for her.
"I...wow..." Sayaka stuttered as she took it in her hands. "I don't know what to say...thank you. I'm flattered really but...any reason why?"
"Doctor is kind...Wants to protect doctor."
"I...think he has a crush on you," Epilachna deadpanned. "Or at the very least, likes you very very much in a platonic way."
"Umm...I...you do know I'm with Suzaku...right?" Sayaka asked slowly.
"Don't care...will protect Doctor, Doctor's mate, and any larvae they have."
"Even Cochlea is cheering you on, ha ha."
"S-shut up! No not you Cochlea, this moron here!" Sayaka hastily added when the male Worm turned his head toward her. "L-let's just continue..."
"Okay..." Cochlea nodded as he lowered his head toward her for her to continue the "In the end I took it huh?" Sayaka sighed as she looked at a bag in her hands. Even though she wasn't as good at "sensing" magic as Mami, she could still feel some sort of power emanating from the stone. "I should probably have Lelouch take a look at it when he comes back."
"Look at what?"
Sayaka jumped and spun around to see Suzaku standing behind her.
"S-Suzaku...you scared me..."
"Hahaha, sorry," the knight laughed. "But what did you want him to see?"
Sayaka held out the magic stone for Suzaku to see and the man's eyes widened at it.
"This is...wow. So that's what Cochlea wanted to give you?"
"Yeah its...wait...how did you know he wanted to give me something?"
"He told me when I saw him in the infirmary. Asked if it was okay so I said yes."
"Just like that?"
"Of course. He's a nice guy after all and he said he wanted to protect us. What, are you falling for him instead, Sayaka?"
"Of course not! I mean...how does a Worm/Human relationship work anyway? Pass the emotional part I mean. Worms lay eggs after all...what happens..."
"I...think you shouldn't think too much into that stuff..."
"As a medical student I can't help but think so. We'll need to think about that when, and it's a definite when, Worms start to get more of an individual identity instead of that of a Hive, they'll probably begin seeking pleasures, like love, as Cochlea seems to be doing...I mean...this isn't some run of the mill gem after all...I kind of feel bad for accepting it now..."
"Well as long as he's happy, right?" Suzaku asked as he placed a hand on her shoulder. "Let's go."
"I made dinner reservations for the two of us at your favorite place."
"Aha, you are worried, aren't you?"
"Now now, don't spoil this good mood."
"I'm onto you, buddy. Say it! You're worried aren't you?"
"Can't you just take it as me trying to be romantic?"
"You don't do romance very well, Suzaku. It's not like I care about that when it comes to you anyway."
"Ahaha...that...kind of hurts..."
"Man up and walk it off."
"Is that really something a healer should say?"
"Okay, we're ready to begin the final checks, Second Lieutenant Akemi!" Rose called down to Homura, who was currently wearing a black armored powered suit over a purple bodysuit, from the observation deck above her.
"Understood," the young woman replied as as flex her hands to get a better feel for the armor. The armored plating covered most of her body, allowing free room for her joints and fingers. There were also no pointless gaps in the armor to "emphasize" pointless parts, like the chest or rear area.
This was her job now ever since Bishop was demanded. She became part of the R&D department
"Okay, first a quick explanation," Rose said as a monitor appeared in front of Homura, showing the tech's face as well as a diagram of the armor. "What you are wearing is the VANGUARD Mark 3 Armor. Compared to the Mark 2 armor, we've managed to shrink the suit down to make it more of a powered exoskeleton and install a on-board reactor rather than having it attached to a external generator. It also incorporates a dummy AI that syncs the armor with your device's AI. This dummy AI will focus mainly on deploying barriers and shields for defense against standard attacks. In short, in exchange for defense, we've offered more mobility and deployment range."
"I'm sensing a 'but' here," Homura said as she rolled her arms.
"The suit only has an operation time of one hour," the woman replied with a sour face. "And that's if you only just walk around. More...extreme movements will kill the operation time even more. We haven't found an external power source powerful enough to keep it running without relying on the Mage's Linker Core. And even then, the sheer draw the armor takes will leave them depleted and helpless in minutes. We've tried to copy the power source used in TheBee's powered suit, but efforts to recreate it are...poor at best. Anyone who can build those things are either a genius...or a madman."
"So this test will be to see how long the generator can last under combat conditions?" Homura asked.
"Yes. If you are up to it, we'll also try testing how well it protects you from the ballistics of EDEN's weapons. Of course, this doesn't mean you have to just stand there and be shot. Being able to avoid the bullets counts as the suit protecting you. Edge Blazer will monitor your vitals and we will stop the test if it determines your life is in danger."
[At your service, Ma'am,] chimed the device.
"Understood," Homura nodded as she pressed her hand on her headset, allowing a purple beam to shoot across her face to the other side, creating a visor over her eyes.
"Okay. First checks, is your HUD operating as normal?"
"Yes," Homura replied as her eyes moved around, looking at the readings. Her vital readings along with the suit's power meter and armor status showing all green. "There are no problems."
"Good. Then we'll start with some basic movement."
The area in front of Homura began to shift as walls of various sizes began to rise up from the gound, creating a maze-like area.
"Please make your way through the maze as quickly as possible."
"Starting in three...two...one..." Homura said as she lowered herself into a runner's pose.
[Start up! Ignition Boost!]
Homura's eyes widened for a split second as she felt herself be launched forward by the boosters on her waist as her legs immediately moved to move to keep herself from falling flat on her face.
A low wall appeared in front of her and she immediately extended a hand out to vault over it, heading straight toward a wall. The boosters then turned with her body so that she was forced back onto the ground and down toward the maze.
Whenever she hit a corner, all she had to do was think that she wanted to stop and her body along with the armor reacted for her, sliding to a stop just before hitting the wall and speeding down the next corridor before hitting another corner.
Rather than armor, it was more like a second skin to her. Despite it only being the first time she's worn the armor, it already felt like it was a part of her. Was it due to the fact that the AIs have properly synched with her mind?
Homura couldn't help but think. With this armor she would be able to match any Worm in terms of strength and wouldn't be overwhelmed again...
"And...time!" Rose shouted as Homura reached the end of the maze. "Two minutes and twenty seven seconds. Good work, LT."
"Hmm..." Homura muttered noncommittally. "The Generator?"
[System Power at fifty percent.]
"Ahh..." Rose sighed as she thumped her head on the console. "It won't even last five minutes in a serious engagement..."
"But the armor seems sufficient for those who prefer hit and run tactics and shorter engagements," Homura commented. "I prefer it over the Mark Two, which is probably more suited to Lancer Company instead."
"Fat lot of good a VANGUARD Armor that has a limited range can do for Vanguards..." the tech cried. "If only we had something to use for the power source...uuu..."
The technician let out another sigh as she pushed herself back up.
"Anyway...let's fit in a fresh generator and continue with some combat testing. We have a window of five minutes per test but it probably won't take that long for each one."
"Do you have that many generators in stock?" Homura asked, raising an eyebrow.
"We have enough and we can recharge them while we work."
"If you say so..."
"Yes. Then let's move on to target practice. Like the Mark Two, the Mark Three is modifiable to fully integrate your device in it. So all of Edge Blazer's forms are accessible to you."
"And you wonder why your generators don't last..." Homura mumbled as she allowed the engineers to load up a new generator onto her armor.
"About that, if I may have a moment of your time."
Homura looked up at the observation deck and saw someone addressing Rose. It was a dark haired man wearing a lab coat caked in mud and dirt along with various other things that Homura couldn't tell from a distance.
"Yes...?" Rose asked. "You're...Bellcricetus Worm, aren't you?"
"That is correct," the revealed Worm replied with a bow. "Recently while digging out the area under Northern Base to build our Hive, we Worms have come across some really interesting items."
Bellcricetus held up a suitcase and showed its contents to Rose, whose eyes widened.
"W-what are these?" she asked as she took the case from Bellcricetus.
"Stones we found extremely deep in the planet's mantle," Bellcricetus replied. "The first one was found by Cochlea Worm and since then we found quite a few more. They seem to fit what you would call Lost Logia, but they seem to be magical in nature. Perhaps you can use these somehow?"
"Y-yes! We'll get to work on this! Maye if we...yes that might..."
I suppose the tests are over..." Homura sighed as she looked at the clock on the wall. "It's already three...Teana should be getting out of class by now."
"All right everyone, class is out. See you all after the weekend."
As the teacher ended the class, Teana picked up her bag and headed out of the school. As soon as she got to the gates, she bolted down the sidewalk, checking her watch as she did.
"Ok..." she nodded. "If I can get there in ten minutes, we have twenty minutes before the deal is over. I need to hurry."
Ten minutes later, Teana could see her destination in sight, a non-mage kindergarten.
"Einhalt!" she called out, spotting the green haired girl standing with her back against the brick wall on the outside of the school. The younger girl looked up when her name was called. "Sorry, did I make you wait long?"
"No..." Einhalt replied as she shook her head.
"Come on, stop making that face," Teana said as she placed her fingers on the edges of Einhalt's mouth and pushed them up. "Smile. You made it through Week One well enough, right?"
"It's only been one week?" Einhalt asked as her shoulders dropped even lower.
"Ahaha...oops..." Teana laughed nervously as she looked around. "A-anyway! Let's go get some cake at Orange Confectioneries, okay?"
Taking the younger girl's hand, Teana led her to a bus stop where they got on a bus to cover most of the distance to the shop.
Once they got there, Once they got there, they saw that the shop was closed.
"Huh? Is he out?" Teana wondered as she knocked on the door. "Mr Gottwald? Are you there?"
Moments later, the door opened and Jeremiah poked his head out.
"Oh, Young Teana and Lady Einhalt," the man said when he saw them. "Come in, come in. Close the door behind you."
"Good afternoon," the two of them greeted as Teana closed the door behind them and walked up to the counter to talk to Jeremiah.
"Why is the shop closed?" Teana began as she looked around. "Is something wrong?"
"Not at all," Jeremiah replied as he gestured them into the kitchen. "I am simply working on a new item. I just finished the first batch. Would you like to try it?"
"Really?" Teana asked.
The girls looked at each other for a moment before they followed the man past the cloth flaps separating the store from the kitchen behind the register.
Once inside, the girls felt their jaws drop at the lines of ovens hanging from the ceiling as well as on the ground. Several of them were on and various sweet scents could be smelled coming from them.
Teana wanted to ask just how a single person could handle all of this by himself but Jeremiah quickly held out two orange pastries in front of them.
"Pumpkin Custard Pastries," Jeremiah said with a smile. "here you go."
Teana happily accepted the pastries and handed on to Einhalt before they bit into it together. She then opened her eyes and turned toward Einhalt just as the younger girl turned back toward her before looking up at Jeremiah.
"Is...something the matter?" the man asked with worry.
"Umm..." Teana began as she swallowed what she had in her mouth, unsure how to put it.
"I can't taste anything..." Einhalt replied bluntly as Teana winced at it.
"I see..." Jeremiah sighed as he scratched the back of his head. "So it's no good huh? Thankfully I only made a dozen as a start so it was not too much of a waste."
"Umm...I'm sorry..." Einhalt said as she lowered her head.
"It is fine. It is not the first nor will it be the last failure I've had."
"Do you usually have another taster?" Teana asked.
"Yes. Lady Sakura usually comes by but as she is busy at work, I haven't been able to get in contact with her for a while."
"Is something happening?" Teana asked before looking to the side and mouthing "Lady Sakura?" in disbelief at the term as to her Kyouko was anything but a "Lady."
"Who knows," Jeremiah shrugged as he went to place the pastries in the "cheap" area. "I am just a confectioner not privy to the details of the military after all."
On Non-Administrative planet 97, one week later, a trio of students were standing on the roof of Seishou Private Advance Junior High School.
"Is everyone ready?" the voice of Amy Limietta asked. "I'll be opening the portal now."
"Yes!" Takamachi Nanoha, Fate Testarossa Harlaown and Yagami Hayate replied.
In a flash of pink, yellow and white light, the three girls' clothes vanished and were replaced by their barrier jackets just as a white portal opened above them and the three of them flew through it, reappearing on the other side at a large desert crag.
"So...what are we doing here today?" Nanoha asked as they flew past the barren scenery towards their objective area.
"Right, the briefing," Amy nodded. "The planet you are on has two historic ruins and our excavation efforts have revealed that there are Lost Logia within these ruins. There's a nearby base with all the details. All you have to do is retrieve the information and escort the team back to the Arthra."
"So it's just a simple peaceful mission this time, then?" Nanoha asked with a sigh.
"Please don't say that," Hayate said with a wry smile. "If you say that then something exciting will end up happening."
"Well in any case, the three of you should head to the first site while Signum and Zafira are heading over to the other site. And even if it does become quote-unquote exciting, I'm sure you three will manage somehow. Provided it doesn't end up like Orussia."
"Seriously, stop tempting fate you guys."
"Yes?" Fate asked.
"Not you," Hayate replied as Nanoha let out a laugh.
After a few minutes, the three of them managed to arrive at the base's command center, only to see something they did not expect.
"Black and silver uniforms..." Fate gasped.
Intermixed with the brown uniforms of the regular ground forces, the 501st Anti-EDEN Black Knight forces were setting up their equipment along side that of the regular forces.
"What's going on?" Hayate asked as she and the others walked forward, being careful not to get in the way as two people in brown uniforms came up to them.
"Thank you for taking such a long trip!" a young man with purple hair and glasses greeted them with a salute. "I am the Base Assistant Manager, Griffith Roulan."
"And I'm Shario Finieno from communications," the brown haired woman with glasses beside him greeted as well.
"Griffith-kun," Hayate spoke up. "What's going on? Why are the Black Knights here?"
"We are here because of the only reason we should be here," a sharp voice said before Griffith could speak up. Turning around, the three Mages saw a black haired woman with blood red eyes wearing the uniform of the 501st with a green patch featuring a rose walk up to them. "Special Collaborator Camponotus Oculus."
"Special Collaborator..." Fate repeated before shutting her mouth, lest she say what she was thinking.
"Yes," Oculus nodded. "To answer your unspoken question, we are indeed a Worm of the Blackthorn Hive. To answer the other one, EDEN forces have been suspected in the area and we are deployed here to assist in and expedite the extraction of the excavation team. We've only just arrive a few minutes before you did with Second Lieutenant Sakura Kyouko."
"Kyouko-san is here?" Nanoha asked as she turned to Griffith.
"No, not exactly," the assistant base commander replied as Oculus gave them a swift bow and returned to her duties. "The Lieutenant left as soon as she arrived toward the site with a small squad."
Griffith then turned to make sure that none of the Black Knight soldiers could hear him before lowering his voice.
"Frankly, these 'Special Collaborators' creep me out, Miss Yagami," Griffith replied.
"Are they being a problem?" Hayate asked.
"No, it's not that. It's that they just...they're incredibly efficient, yes, but once they finish a task, most of them just stand there staring off into space until Oculus gives them an order. Like they're not really...there half the time or that they're machines. I know they're 'real' aliens and don't really think like humans but it's hard to remember that when they look so much like us."
"So they're all..." Nanoha asked as she indicated to the other Black Knights.
"Yes," Shario nodded. "The LT introduced them as such as per standard procedure when operating with the Worms from the 501st."
"I see,' Hayate nodded. "Well, it's been nice meeting you again, Griffith-kun, but we should probably get going."
"Of course," the man nodded.
"It was very nice to meet all of you!" Shario said enthusiastically as the trio smiled and exited the base before flying toward the direction of the dig site.
"Have either of you worked with Worms before?" Nanoha asked the other two. "Since Worms can't be Mages, I've never really got the chance to come across too many . Mostly a few of them on tour at the base but that's it."
"A couple times," Fate admitted. "The Enforcers often work with the Black Knights when we find intel on EDEN and the Black Knights' spies often report intel to us when they find useful things."
"There were quite a few Worms taking part in the officer classes at my Academy but they are all in a separate class from my own," Hayate said. "I do talk to one of them a lot though, his name is Culex."
"Oh, that Worm that looks like Lelouch-san?" Fate asked as Nanoha cringed slightly.
"Yes. He acts just like him most of the time that it's really scary, but he acts... how do I put it...more sarcastic than the real Lelouch-san."
"That's...frightening," Fate replied in a monotone.
"Isn't it? Nanoha-chan? Is something wrong?"
"Eh? Ahh...nothing's wrong!" Nanoha said quickly.
"Are you feeling ill?" Fate asked with worry. "Maybe you should..."
What Fate was about to say was cut off as Shario's face appeared in front of all three of them.
"This is Shario, we have a situation at the excavation site!" the communication officer replied. "It's EDEN! They appear to be using some sort of mechanical weapons as well!"
"What about the Second Lieutenant?" Hayate asked.
"Oh I'm fine!" came a voice as another monitor popped up, showing the image of a red headed woman wearing a black uniform with silver shoulders. Sakura Kyouko was pushing the head of a man in a dig uniform down as bullets and some kind of laser hit the fallen pillar they were using as cover.
"Kyouko-san!" Nanoha shouted.
"Yo, Nanoha, Fate!" Kyouko said, as if she was suddenly oblivious to her situation. "Haven't seen you two in like...what, five months now? We should have a reunion party or something after-Vice get out of there now!"
A loud explosion erupted from the other side of the monitor followed by a male voice screaming before a dull thud landed down somewhere near Kyouko as a man started groaning in pain.
"What...happened to being...pulled off of active...duty...?" the former sniper groaned. "Why am I still being shot at?"
"What happened?" Fate asked.
"That was the sound of our chopper going kablooie," Kyouko said. "So if one of you can get here, like now, I would really really appreciate it! Where the hell is Acarina?"
"Fighting the other Worms, Ma'am!" replied another Black Knight that the girls didn't recognize as he pulled Vice into cover.
"Damn. Anyway, hurry your asses up girls!"
"We see the site now!" Nanoha shouted as the three of them arrived, only to see several cylinder drones alongside several soldiers dressed in white armor firing at a group of people in black that were taking cover in the ruins and attempting to return fire from their spear-like devices which were being blocked by some kind of invisible force by the drones.
Scattered around the battlefield were burning pieces of metal, probably from the destroyed vehicles and drones as well as a few bodies from both sides.
"Wide Area Scan Complete!" Reinforce Zwei said to the others. "The only Non-Worm allied forces in the area are around Lieutenant Sakura! Detecting four extreme heat signatures moving at high speeds all around the battlefield. Unable to keep up with the IFF reading!"
"We can worry about the enemy Worms later," Hayate said as she directed her staff at the enemy formation. "For now we need to provide cover for the Black Knight Forces. The enemy is EDEN so magical barriers and shields will be less effective."
"The enemy also seems to be using a Nullification field," Fate noted. "Anti-Magic Field or 'AMF.'"
"Enough with the commentary!" Kyouko shouted as her monitor appeared again, causing the girls to jerk their heads away from the noise. "Just take out a few of them so I can stop worrying about the civvies and push forward!"
"But what are supposed to do against an AMF?" Rein asked. "If the connection to our magic is broken then all of our attacks will be no more effective than your soldiers'! And with the Anti-Mage bullets it will be dangerous to get close!"
"Ahahaha, looks like you are still young, Rein," Hayate laughed.
"What Hayate-chan means is that there is no such thing as a perfect defense," Nanoha replied. "There is always a weak spot. Fate-chan!"
As Nanoha was speaking, the clouds above them suddenly turned black as thunder roared in the sky.
EDEN's human soldiers looked up to see the dark clouds and the Mages above them for a moment before retreating immediately, no doubt not wanting to be next to the drones when the attack hit.
A few of the drones turned away from the Black Knights and began firing up at Fate to try and shoot her down before the spell could go off but Nanoha was ready for that.
Firing a pink beam at the ground below them, allowing the blast to throw up a large boulder in front of them, blocking the bullets from reaching them before aiming her device at the boulder just as Fate's spell finished charging.
Lightning and and stone crashed into the opposite side of the battlefield, obliterating the drones in an instant, leaving only the regular troops.
"About damn time!" Kyouko shouted as she flipped over her cover and held up her left hand which had a bright red gauntlet with a red gem on it. "Henshin!"
"Huh?" the younger girls asked as they looked at her.
"Just kidding~" Kyouko smirked as she swept her arm to the side.
Instantly, her uniform was replaced by a Barrier Jacket similar to her old Magical Girl uniform except she had a pair of red gauntlets and boots over her arms and legs, along with a black flowing cape bearing a silver Black Knight emblem on its back. She also had a holographic red visor stretching across her face in front of her eyes.
"Let's go, Tonbogiri!" Kyouko shouted as the gem on her gauntlet shined. "Shot Mode!"
[Aye Boss! Exceed Shift: Shot Mode!] the device replied obediently as it created a red and silver firearm in her hands with a revolver-type cartridge system in the center. Below the handle seemed to be a pair of blades with a red gem embedded directly into the handle.
"You lot take the injured and civvies and fall back!" Kyouko ordered her soldiers before pointing at Hayate and the others. "You three cover them. Here comes another wave of drones!"
"What about you?" Nanoha asked. "I can-"
"Do you have the guts to use Starlight Fall when there are actual humans in the line of fire even if they're enemies?" Kyouko shot back, causing Nanoha to flinch away. "Didn't think so. So stick with the drones and leave the guys to me."
"R-roger..." Nanoha nodded as she flew off.
"Good luck," Kyouko said as she spied several drones fly off to go after them as magic of various colors began flying back and forth. She then looked over toward the EDEN soldiers who were picking themselves off of the ground and quickly moving into cover in the rubble. "Let me show you how an Earthling fights ya terrorist bastards!"
"Damned Black Knights!" one of the Eden soldiers shouted as they opened fired on her.
"For our utopia amongst the stars!" another shouted.
But Kyouko had already moved.
Before they even fired, she had already leaped up into the air and aimed her weapon at the closest soldier and pulled the trigger.
A click sounded from the cylinder as it spun to the next chamber as a small hum emitted from the device as a large red orb the size of Kyouko's head form in front of the small gun barrel and fired toward the soldier who looked up just in time for the bullet to smash into his head and slammed him into the ground.
Immediately the other soldiers turned their rifles upward at Kyouko who flipped upside-down and formed a red shield at her feet, allowing her to kick off of it as small jets ignited form the heels of her boots and push herself down toward the ground, avoiding the bullets by a hair.
As soon as she hit the ground she burst forward once more towards the EDEN defensive line and fired another round at another soldier.
The red bullet launched forward, smashing through the soldier's cover and blew him off his feet, sending him flying backward into a pillar before falling flat onto the ground.
"Count!" Kyouko shouted as she shot forward once more under the suppressing fire of the EDEN soldiers before slamming her shoulder against a ruined truck, her barrier jacket protecting her from the heat and flames.
[Four cartridges remain, Boss.] Tonbogiri replied. [Two tangos at two o'clock, distance fifty. Recommended Spell: Heavy Bomber!]
"Let's do it!" Kyouko nodded as she aimed her gun at the direction indicated on her HUD as the device cylinder clicked and spun twice, creating a large magic circle at Kyouko's feet.
[Aye Boss! Heavy Bomber!]
With a pull of the trigger, an even larger bullet, one bigger than Kyouko was tall, erupted from the barrel and blew right through the destroyed truck, leaving a perfect and smoldering hole in its edge.
Two soldiers that had been trying to get around the truck for a shot at Kyouko could only scream in pain as the magic bullet enveloped them and blew them aside.
"Damn it! Just rush her!"
The remaining five soldiers seemed to have just given up relying on cover and decided to rush her, holding their rifles in one arm and drawing blades out with the other.
"Shift Modes!" Kyouko ordered.
[Aye Boss! Exceed Shift: Spear Mode!]
Kyouko held her gun out to the side, grabbing it by the barrel with the handle pointed up, allowing the blades at the bottom of the handle to extend out, creating a trident as the barrel extended forward, creating the base of her spear as the center blade of the trident began glowing red with magical energy.
"I'm going to make you all pay for killing my guys," Kyouko said as she spun her spear around in front of her before bursting forward and slashing one of the soldiers as she passed.
"Shoot her! Shoot her damn it!"
"Screw you!" Kyouko shouted as she pulled her cape off its clasped and threw it in front of her.
[Exceed Shift: Iron Wall!]
The cape immediately stretched out at four points and held there by magic before hardening in place, stopping the bullets just enough before crumbling back into cloth, but Kyouko had already disappeared.
"W-where did she...?"
[Exceed Charge: ACS Driver!]
The remaining soldiers barely had time to look up to see Kyouko spinning her her spear around in her hand and bathing in a red light as four energy wings erupted from the shaft. A second later, she launched herself toward the center of the soldiers, blasting magical energy and rock around he, blasting the soldiers to the side.
"Not so tough without numbers or drones, are you...?" Kyouko asked as she jerked Tonbogiri to the side, popping out the cartridge cylinder and ejecting the spent cartridges.
[Reloading!] Tonbogiri said as Kyouko pulled out a cartridge speedloader from a pouch and inserted the fresh cartridges into the device.
"Tonbogiri, what's the status of the others?" she asked, tossing the used up speedloader aside.
[All Mages have reached the rendezvous point. Awaiting you, Boss.]
"Got it. Casualty report?"
Three explosions sounded from behind Kyouko, causing her to turn around and look just in time to see a large red and black Worm covered in dozens of spines land behind her. It was vaguely humanoid with a giant pincer for a right arm and a relatively normal hand for its left.
"Our side losses: Two Javelin Knights and three Blackthorn Worms," the Worm replied as its form changed to be identical to Kyouko except that its hair did not go past the neck while Kyouko's went down all the way to her waist. "Enemy losses..."
"Annihilated," Kyouko interrupted as the Worm looked at her.
[All EDEN soldiers in the area still show life signs, Boss.] Tonbogiri interjected.
"I said..." Kyouko said fiercely as she tightened her grip on her device. "They were completely annihilated. Any objections?"
"You won't get any arguments from me," Acarina replied.
"Tonbogiri, report that all EDEN soldiers were killed in the engagement."
"Report from Second Lieutenant Sakura," one of the Black Knight soldiers said as he turned to Nanoha and the others. "The situation has calmed down and EDEN forces in that zone have been pacified. She said to head back to base without her and she will be along shortly."
"Pacified...huh...?" Vice asked as let out a sigh. "Least it's over now."
"By pacified..." Nanoha began. "Does that mean that they're all..."
"Yeah," Vice nodded. "It tends to happen a lot in these engagements. EDEN forces always want to fight to the last for some reason."
"Umm...is that the Lost Logia we were sent to retrieve?" Fate asked the excavators.
"That's right," one of them replied. "Inside the case is a crystal of some sort. I'd call it a 'relic.'"
"Is something wrong, Fate-chan?" Nanoha asked.
The girls looked at each other for a moment before the Black Knight's communication officer raised his hand to get everyone's attention.
"Another transmission is coming in," he said as he played it.
The transmission was full of static with a few words inserted here and there but Nanoha was able to recognize the voice.
"That's..." Nanoha began as she gestured to the radio and the officer handed it to her. "This is the dispatch from the Athra, Signum-san, is that you?"
"Is that you, Nanoha?" Signum asked. "Is everything okay over there?"
"Not really...we were attacked by EDEN forces but we managed to rescue the excavation team..wait...were you attacked by EDEN as well?"
"I'm not sure if they were EDEN but we did encounter enemies," Signum replied. "Have EDEN started using automated drones in combat?"
Nanoha looked toward Vice who shrugged his shoulders.
"First time we encountered them, right?" Vice asked, turning to another soldier who nodded.
"I see...so they're new unknowns then."
"Signum," Hayate cut in. "What about the site itself?"
Signum and Zafira looked at the large crater that used to be one of the Saint Church's excavation site.
"What?" Hayate asked.
"When we arrived, the dig site was nothing more than a crater," Signum explained. "Our only solace is that the site was unmaned."
"Hmm...I'm guessing when they saw us at the first dig site, they decided not to take any chances and just decided to blow up the second one," came the Black Knight officer's voice again. "I don't suppose they left behind the Lost Logia with the drones as a trap?"
"No, only the drones were here when we arrived," Signum replied. "I believe this mission will not be as simple as it first appeared."
"When it comes to EDEN, nothing is."
"What a terrible sight..." Vita noted. She and Shamal had been on standby until Signum had called them in as back up. "No smoke or charring either. Do we have an idea who caused it?"
"Considering that the same drones that appeared here attacked Sakura Kyouko at the other site, there is a good chance that EDEN is behind it," Zafira replied.
"First ruins and now drones again..." Vita muttered. "All I can think about is something I'd really rather forget about..."
A mangled mess of words came from the man's mouth, an achievement in itself considering the hole in his chest.
"He opened his eyes! Don't you dare die on us, you hear me!"
"I'm sorry...I'm sorry...I'm sorry..."
"Calm down! This is not the time to panic! Come on...heal...heal damn it!"
The man that was the center of their bond was laying in the snow in an ocean of his own blood.
Vita's thoughts were interrupted when she suddenly felt someone smack her back.
"What is with that face, Vita?" Signum asked before placing her hand on the smallest knight's head. "Rein will be worried if she saw that."
"Shut up," Vita muttered as she ran a hand across her eyes. "I'm thinking here so don't pat my head. So what are we going to do?"
As if to answer her question, Zafira's head suddenly jerked upward as the guardian beast looked toward the forest.
"There's something moving in the forest," he said. "A lot of somethings."
"This is the observation base!" Shario's voice blared out to them. "It seems to be another wave of the drones from before! However, there doesn't seem to be any Worms or other soldiers with them. They seem to be heading toward the convoy."
"Considering that Hayate-chan and the other two are there, there shouldn't be much of a problem," Shamal muttered. "But considering the cargo and the exhausted Black Knights with them..."
"It would be best to take them out before then," Signum said as she smacked Vita on the back again. "Observation Base. Two of the Wolkenritter will engage the incoming drones."
"Quit deciding things for me!" Vita shouted.
"Hoh? Are you against my decision as your leader?"
"That's not what I meant...!"
"Don't worry, the two of us will be fine here," Shamal said.
"If you need back up, we'll rush over," Zafira added.
"To protect and guard people is the duty of a guardian knight," Signum said. "Let's go, in order to fulfill that duty."
Vita looked at her fellow knights for a moment before shaking her head to clear it.
"Okay fine! I'm going!" she shouted.
It was fine that she was feeling pissed off.
She could take it out on those stupid drones.
That memory from that day will never happen again due to the current circumstances.
Even so...she didn't want want anyone to make such a face again.
"I suppose that will do it for the report."
"I see...my condolences for your fallen soldiers," Carim Gracia, leader of the Saint Church's Knights said to one of her callers.
"Thank you...I just hope a couple of magic rocks are worth their lives."
"For someone who doesn't care much for the Church or religion, you sure didn't hesitate to send reinforcements before I could, Lelouch," Chrono Harlaown said as the other caller huffed. "Even going to the trouble of making this call on your vacation."
"If there is one thing I can unfortunately agree with Eternal, is that the collection of Lost Logia by anybody is a foolish and stupid endeavor as Orussia showed us. But it is not my place to dictate which direction our glorious organization goes. As for this call...well...my people strong-armed their way into your operation so I could at the very least show my face and try to apologize."
"I didn't hear any sort of apology."
"I said 'try' Boy. Needless to say, I'm not trying very hard."
Chrono let out an indignant huff as Carim giggled into her hand.
"Nevertheless, thank you for your support, Lelouch Lamperouge," Carim replied.
"Hopefully it won't be a common occurrence," Lelouch replied. "The less active, EDEN is, the better it is for everyone involved."
"Agreed," Chrono nodded. "Do you mind if I take charge of the investigation?"
"Not at all. First why don't you investigate everyone connected to this mission?"
"You suspect one of our people is a traitor?" Carim asked, her eyes wide.
"With the abundance of Worms the enemy has, I don't doubt that someone could have been replaced, especially when the only way we can detect them is with powerful thermal scanners or by skin contact with another Worm. It would be better to be safe than sorry after all-"
The door of whatever room Lelouch was in suddenly slammed open as the monitor suddenly turned black due to the man slamming the screen down against the desk.
"Oi Lelouch, are you there?"
"What the hell are you doing, Emelita!"
"Looking for you of course," came what seemed like the voice of a young girl. "Who were you talking to in here?"
"I'm talking to no one! Get out!"
"What? I'm just here to get you for Wil's promotion party."
"And I'm sure he will enjoy it just fine without me so get the hell out!"
"It sounds like his vacation isn't so restful after all..." Carim noted.
"I wonder if he is into little girls after all..." Chrono muttered.
Well, that was another story altogether.
"Huh? Is someone speaking from your desk?"
"Yo, looks like you all made it back okay," Kyouko said once Nanoha, Hayate, Fate and the Wolkenritter all made it back to the Observation Base with the convoy.
"How did you get back here before us?" Vita asked in a deadpan.
"I have my ways," the taller red head said as she patted the shorter one on the head.
"Why is everyone patting me on my head?" Vita demanded as she threw Kyouko's hand off.
"Because you're so cute, Vita-chan!" Nanoha said as she jumped at the knight.
"Don't hug me, Nanoha!"
"Aww, no need to be shy~"
"Seriously, get off!"
"Kyouko-san, are you doing anything later?" Fate asked, ignoring the other two.
"Heh? Why?" the older girl asked.
"We were planning on having a party on the Athra. Do you think you can come?"
"Ahh..." Kyouko muttered as she looked to the side. "That sounds like fun and I really want to but..."
"Hurry and load it up!"
Everyone turned around to see Oculus leading several Black Knights who were carrying several large rectangular containers onto transports marked with the Battalion's Emblem.
"Are those..." Nanoha began.
"They're the equipment!" Kyouko said loudly and quickly before grabbing Fate and Nanoha by the shoulders and spinning them around . "We have to get all our crap loaded up then I gotta make a report and all that boring stuff. So you all go ahead and have my share of the fun for me, okay?"
"Sakura, you..." Signum began but Kyouko quickly pushed the younger girls towards her.
"Don't worry about it. Leave Black Knight matters to the Black Knights."
With that, Kyouko turned around and rushed over toward her troops and started yelling at them to which Oculus seemed to just ignore her.
"Oh...okay..." Nanoha muttered as the portal to the Athra appeared behind them. As the others went through, Nanoha gave one last look at the containers before stepping through herself.
April 29th of the Seventy-First year on the Modern Era calender.
"Which flight was he on again?" Suzaku asked as he turned toward Mami who was standing beside him, checking a data pad in her hands.
"It should be Shuttle 141," Mami replied as she put the data pad away. "He'll be coming in through Terminal G."
"Got it," Suzaku nodded as the two of them walked down the corridor of the airport. "It's been one heck of a month, hasn't it?"
"Are you referring to the operation at the excavation site, the constant hounding at the 'incompetence' of the supposed Anti-EDEN unit by the other Generals, Einhalt-chan looking at the calender every thirty minutes, the development of the Mark IV VANGUARD armors using the thermal-magical crystals excavated by the Blackthorn Hive, or Chrono-san and Amy-san's upcoming wedding?"
"I think a few of those are a lot less important than the others."
"You're right. At least the most important matter of Einhalt-chan missing her father will be resolved today, right?" Mami asked with a smile.
"Ahaha..." Suzaku laughed as he scratched his cheek just as a chime signaled the arrival of the next shuttle. "Guess that's him. Let's go."
Mami nodded as they quickened their pace toward the Terminal when something or rather someone from the crowd ran headfirst into Suzaku's stomach.
"Oof!" the man let out a grunt as he lurched over and stumbled backwards with his hands over his stomach in pain. "Why...did that hurt so much?"
"Ouchie!" came the voice of a small girl who had fallen over as she rubbed her head. She had dark blue hair with green eyes and was wearing a pink shirt with striped sleeves with a matching pink skirt.
"Are you okay?" Mami asked, as she knelt down in front of the girl.
"Yeah...sorry!" the girl said as she hopped to her feet and bowed to Suzaku who raised a hand and made a gesture to say that it was okay.
"Are you lost?"
"Yep! Just a little bit!" the girl replied with a nod and a smile causing Mami to look on in worry. "But I'll be okay! Goodbye! And sorry!"
"What an...energetic child..." Mami noted as the girl ran off again. "Are you okay, Suzaku-san?"
"I don't get it..." Suzaku said as he placed a hand on the wall and tried to take deep breaths. "It was only a small child...so why does it feel like I've been hit by a wrecking ball?"
"Come now, Suzaku-san, there's no need to be so dramatic."
"I'm not..." Suzaku said as he finally pushed himself off the wall and shook his head. "Ugh...I'll probably feel that in the morning..."
Mami simply sighed as they made their way to the waiting area.
Then, about five minutes later, they spotted Lelouch walking down the path wearing a strange black and silver robe that he most certainly did not own before he went on the vacation. He was also accompanied by a pink haired woman with orange fox ears extending out the top of her head.
The woman was dressed in a black and silver kimono and was looking around the airport with astonishment as if she had never seen such a thing before. Most notably, was that she was clinging onto Lelouch's arm with her legs unsteady.
"Please tell me you didn't get married on your vacation..." Suzaku said, pinching the base of his nose as Lelouch came up to the, wearing an amused smirk as he looked between Suzaku and Mami, the latter of which was gaping at the two of them with her mouth open before slowly raising her arm to point at the duo.
"Don't worry, I did no such thing," Lelouch replied before gesturing toward his companion. "This is Seiya, a Fire Fox I met during my vacation."
"Fire...Fox?" Mami repeated as she quickly shook her head to clear it. "Oh, then is she like Arf-san and Zafira-san?"
"Arfsan...Zafirasan?" Seiya repeated as she turned toward Lelouch for clarification.
"They are wolves who made a contract with others like the one you made with me," Lelouch said as Seiya nodded in understanding before he turned toward Suazaku. "Not that kind of contract."
"I wasn't going to ask," Suzaku said, raising his hands. "Anyway, what's with the robes?"
"This? It's the clothes a friend of mine made while I was there in exchange for working with him."
"What happened to simply being on vacation?"
"I got bored."
"Did you get your clothes from that person too, Seiya-san?"
"No," Seiya said as she held up one of her arms to show off the sleeve. "These clothes appeared when I made the contract with Master Lelouch. And it's just Seiya...not Seiyasan."
"Yes...let's go with that..." Lelouch muttered his eyes turning away for a moment. "Anyway, I didn't get an in-flight meal so I am a bit hungry. Is Einhalt still at Madoka's?"
"Yes," Mami nodded. "Teana-chan has been picking her up from the Nursery and helping her with homework as well. I think they became good friends in the past month."
"I see, I suppose I could give her a thank you gift. Anyway, I want to get something to eat before I get back home. So let's hurry."
"Understood, is there anything you'd like to eat, Seiya-s...I mean...Seiya?" Mami asked feeling a little awkward dropping the honorific.
"I would prefer to eat some meat," Seiya replied. "Other than that, I am not picky."
"I didn't think you'd get much vegetation living at the base of an active volcano..." Lelouch muttered.
"Volcano...?" Suzaku asked.
"I had a very interesting time," Lelouch said with a smile. "Though I'd rather not tell the story more than once. So let's go."
Adjusting his bags a bit, Lelouch started walking with Seiya still hanging by his arm.
"Umm...is there a reason you are clinging onto him?" Mami couldn't help but ask.
"I've walked on four legs for the last four hundred and eighty five years..." Seiya replied. "I've started walking on two for the last two days...and was sitting down for the most part..."
That explained why her legs were shaking. It was because she still getting used to walking and Lelouch was using him as a support. Nothing more.
More importantly, she was just his familiar and nothing else. Yes, that was the most important part and thus nothing to worry about.
At least until Lelouch suddenly stopped and looked off to the side.
"Master...is there something wrong?" Seiya asked.
Lelouch was staring at the baggage claim area where a purple haired man in a suit was picking up a steel suitcase that had an intricate lock on it. That in itself was nothing unusual, but Lelouch could have sworn he saw that man somewhere before.
"Where have I..." he began when a flash appeared in his memory.
A man stood before him in a dark cave, illuminated only by small lights and the large screen beside them, showing a girl on the floor clasping her neck as she bled out.
The man was letting out a cold and cruel laughter as he could only watch as the girl's life faded away.
"Oi, Lelouch?" Suzaku asked as he felt a hand shake his shoulder. "Is something wrong? You're looking very pale?"
"Are you sick?" Mami asked. "Maybe we should get you home instead."
"Impossible...he's dead. I killed him...I know I did...!"
Lelouch suddenly found his body heating up, his palms getting sweaty, his throat becoming dry as his mind was filled with utter rage.
"CURTIS!" Lelouch roared as he pulled his arm out of Seiya's grip and dashed toward the man who turned around to look at him in shock.
But that was as far as he got when an explosion suddenly rocked the entire airport.
Lelouch stumbled forward a bit as an alarm started sounding throughout the airport.
"Attention: Ladies and gentlemen: this is a safety announcement. We are going to evacuate the terminal now. Please remain calm and follow the airport staff's instructions as you head-"
Another explosion rocked the terminal as the speakers also exploded in a cloud of sparks.
Immediately people started screaming and running around in a panic.
Lelouch immediately found himself being pushed around by people scrambling for the exit as he lost sight of his target in the crowd.
"Oi! Wait you bastard!" he shouted as he tried to push his way against the sea of people.
"Lelouch! What are you doing?" he heard Suzaku shout.
"A known EDEN member has been sighted!" he responded telepathically, cursing himself for making himself known in his haste. "He must have had something to do with the explosion!"
Though he said that, judging from the man's face, he was just as surprised as Lelouch was when the explosion rang out.
Lelouch finally extracted himself from the sea of people and looked around, trying to find the EDEN officer again, ignoring Suzaku's attempts to get him to stop.
He wasn't going to let that bastard get away.
And then, on the other side of the terminal, he spotted him. The bastard was attempting to flee with two other people beside him.
"FOUND YOU! HENSHIN!"
[KAMEN RIDE! DECADE!]
Immediately, the Decadriver appeared around his waist as the Decade card flew out into his hand. He then inserted the card into the belt buckle and leaped into the air immediately after the Decade Armor appeared around him, bringing his sword down on the man.
Curtis however immediately spun around, bringing the suitcase up to bear, and used it to deflect the blade before pushing Decade back.
"Wha...?" Decade gasped as he landed on his feet.
"See?" a woman with dark red, shoulder length hair standing next to Curtis asked. "I told you his form would be too obvious."
"Shut up," "Curtis" shot back. "It was a one in a million thing and you know it!"
"Nevertheless, it appears that our cover has been blown," the other person beside "Curtis" said. He was an older man with his hair pulled back into a short ponytail with round rimless glasses.
"What...?" Decade asked before realizing the implications. "Whitestorm...!"
As if to confirm his acknowledgment, the three people in front of him shifted.
The old man shifted into a tall white Worm with yellow spines extending from certain parts of its body. It had two humanoid hands with long yellow nails with a large blade extending from its left wrist and two shorter ones extending from the right one. It's head was rounded with two flaps extending from above its mouth down to cover the sides of his neck like an old samurai helmet. It also had two horns extending out and sideways from the sides of his head, with an end that pointed toward the front.
The woman also turned into a white Worm with dozens of little spines extending out of the white armored plates on her body. Unlike the male Worm, she didn't have any blades extending from her arms and instead had a giant pincer, about half the size of Decade's leg for a right forearm instead. It's head was similar to the first one except that its lower half was not armored and instead was similar to the lower half a of a human woman's.
And finally Curtis transformed into a brutal looking white Worm with even more spikes extending out of nearly every crevice in its body. From its armored plates to even the crevices below them, ranging from spines the size of Lelouch's finger to those the size of his forearm extending from the Worm's shoulder. It's left arm also had an extremely long stinger that was nearly as big as a person.
Immediately, the screams of the crowd behind him grew in number as the sounds countless Worms made themselves known from within the crowd. Unlike the three in front of Decade, the new Worms were all in their Silas forms.
"Uca...Genomyas...and Pulex Worms..." Decade muttered, recognizing them from the dossiers he received from the Blackthorn Worms
"Now then, humans," the red spiked Worm said as he held his left arm out toward Decade. "Enjoy this burning hell."
"Is Homura-san not back yet?" Teana asked as she helped Madoka set the table.
Since being taken in by Madoka and Homura, she had been drilled to at least use honorifics when speaking to one of the Japanese adults, which happened to include nearly everyone of the adults she knew except for two.
"No," Madoka said as she shook her head. "Homura-san is still busy and probably won't be home until very late tonight. Did you have something you wanted to ask her?"
"I was going to ask if she could teach me how to shoot."
"Shoot? Why do you want to learn something like that?"
"I was...thinking of applying to the TSAB..." Teana admitted, sheepishly.
Madoka stared at the girl for a long while.
"Um...are you sure that's what you want?" Madoka asked slowly. "I mean, it's very dangerous you know? Especially with EDEN around. You understand that, right?"
"I know..." Teana nodded. "I know how dangerous it can be. But..."
Teana clenched her hands together as her voice trailed off.
Madoka let out a small sigh as she knelt down and placed her hands on Teana's shoulders.
"Well...let's talk about it with Homura-san when she gets back home, okay?"
"You're...okay with it?"
"Honestly? I think you are much to young to even think about doing something like that. Homura-san and I waited until we were seventeen before joining up. I know that there is an age limit on signing up, but don't you think you should wait until you're a bit older?"
[Alert: Urgent Message from Castle Base!] Madoka's device, Duel Sakura suddenly announced.
"Eh?" Madoka gasped as she stood up and looked at the Device, which was taking the form of a pendant around her neck. "What's going on?"
[Receiving: Too all Black Knights in the area. A fire is currently spreading in Coastal Airport 8 in Northern Mid-Childa. Major Kururugi Suzaku and Lieutenant Tomoe Mami are already on site as is General Lelouch Lamperouge. On site reports have also indicated that Whitestorm Worms are mixed in with the civilians. All available Blackthorn Worms and available Combat Mages please report to either Northern Base or Castle Base to be transferred on site. Use of the Mark IV VANGUARD armor has been approved. All forces respond and deploy.]
"I'm sorry, I need to go," Madoka said as she ran out of the kitchen, jumping to the side to avoid running into Einhalt as the younger girl was just coming in.
"Did something happen?" Einhalt asked.
"Sorry, Einhalt-chan. I have to go to work really quickly. Just eat dinner with Teana-chan. I'll be back!"
"Have a safe trip..."
"Einhalt, turn on the news," Teana said as she grabbed their dinner and carried it over to the living area.
Einhalt complied as she quickly ran over to the couch and turned on the TV as Teana sat down beside her. There, they saw that the station was displaying the image of the burning airport.
"How is Father going to get home if the airport is on fire?"
"I'm...sure there are other airports he can use..."
A rusted golden armor shot out of the belt around Suzaku's waist, knocking a Worm back away from the civilians before forming back around the knight, forming the Ixa Armor around Suzaku.
"Mami!" Ixa shouted as he pulled out the Ixa Calibur. "Please take care of the civilians."
"Leave it to me!" Mami nodded as she pulled her hair clip off her head and held it up. "Set up!"
Mami's clothes flashed in a yellow light before it died, replacing her clothes with a black uniform with golden lines running down her front and arms with clasps holding the front of the uniform together. On her right shoulder was a dual layered shoulder plate depicting the emblem of the Black Knights on it. She also had on a black skirt with a gold rimming and armored boots that reached up to her knees over stockings that went to her thighs with a half cape draping from her waist. Of course, she still had a white feathered black beret on her head.
Mami then held up an elegant black and gold lever-action rifle and fired magic bullets past Suzaku to give him a bit more room, allowing the knight to rush past the Salis to help his king.
"Everyone, please hurry to the exit!"
The civilians quickly funneled through the hallway as Mami fired at the Worms to keep them from chasing after them or escaping.
Seiya meanwhile was stumbling over her own feet as she tried to get out of the mob's way before tripping and falling into a luggage rack.
"How do humans do this...?" she screamed in anger, losing the calm aura she had before. "I have had enough of this!"
In a flash of orange light, the fox woman disappeared and was replaced by a large fox with a golden orange coat with a long lock of pink fur flowing from its head just below her right eye.
"Seiya, no using fire!" Decade shouted for a split second before vanishing again to combat the Whitestorm Worms within the Clock Up Dimension.
"This place is already in flames!" the familiar shouted, collecting the flames around her into a large ball above her head. "Would a little more show any difference?"
"Well, it would make the airport not burn down as quickly so the civilians can escape," Mami replied as she pushed down on the lever, ejecting a cartridge from the rifle and charging the magic within it.
[Tiro Primo!] Mami's device, Aureus Lapis, declared as the golden lines on the device began glowing, creating a compact yet dense magic bullet in front of the barrel.
"Shoot!" Mami declared and pulled the trigger.
The bullet flew forward, smashing into one of the three Silas lumbering toward her like a zombie. Upon impact, the bullet seemed to explode with wind pressure.
The two Silas to the side of the one hit were instantly thrown aside while the target itself was sent flying backward into the wall in a loud screeching scream before smashing against the wall and exploding in a swath of white flames which burned for a second before being enveloped by the already spreading torrent.
"What happened to not spreading anymore fire?" Seiya asked as she jumped on a Silas, forcing it to the ground before attempting to dig her claws and fangs into its shell.
"I can't help it if Worms explode into flames when destroyed!" Mami replied as she pushed down on the lever again, ejecting another cartridge and aimed at the Worm Seiya was on.
The fox quickly jumped back in a somersault allowing Mami a clear shot as she fired. The bullet slammed into the Worm, sending it screeching across the ground towards Ixa and another Worm that were locked together.
The White Knight immediately jumped back, allowing the two Worms to collide before rushing forward and stabbing the two Worms on the ground, destroying them.
He then ran back towards Mami and Seiya.
"Ten minutes until the first wave of reinforcements arrive," the Knight replied, holding a hand up to the side of his helmet. "The other girls are coming along with a few Blackthorn Worms. They're bringing Glaive and Katana platoons."
Immediately after he finished, Decade reappeared behind the Knight with his back against his just as the three second stage Worms appeared around them. Immediately, Seiya and Mami placed their backs near the Riders so that they could cover all four directions.
"Can you see them?" Decade asked.
"Yeah," Ixa nodded. "Whether or not I can hit them is another thing. Leading the shots don't work most of the time."
"Just shoot. I'll do the leading for you. Seiya."
"Yes, Master?" the familiar asked.
"Try and control the flames. If we can slow or even halt the spread, the Rescue and Relief forces should have an easier time putting it out."
"I will be unable to move in the meantime, Master."
"Understood," Mami replied immediately as a yellow visor appeared in front of her eyes. She understood her job even without being told, to which Decade nodded with approval.
He vanished. The second stage Worms vanished with him.
Immediately Ixa rushed forward, his red blade shining against the flames. The Worms attempted to attack the Knight Rider with their claws, only for Mami to shoot them aside, leaving an opening for Ixa to slash them through on his way to the open.
There he switched the Ixa Calibur to Gun Mode as he scanned the area with his visor.
The cross-like cross-hair was moving along with his eyes, trying to keep track of four different bright orange figures moving amongst the flames.
"Over there!" he shouted as he suddenly shot to his left.
Immediately sparks exploded outward about three meters from his position as the red spiked Worm fell face forward in a growl of pain.
"Damned human!" the Worm growled as it stood back up and turned toward Ixa instead.
Ixa didn't say anything as his visor opened up along with several sections of his armor. The top half of his visor flew outward slightly before reversing itself into the shape of a crown, changing the color of his helmet into blue as the mouth piece also pushed itself forward and fell into Ixa's outstretched hand.
"I suppose this is another form of...'Cast Off?'" Rising Ixa asked as he activated the Ixaraiser, turning it into a gun. He then held up both the Ixa Calibur and the Ixaraiser and started shooting at the Commander Worm, knocking it back in a shower of sparks, causing it to fly back and lose the suitcase it was holding. "The case! Huh?"
Ixa quickly stepped to the side as one of the Silas Worms quickly tried to attack him from behind. Pulling the Ixa Calibur back into Sword Mode, he quickly slashed the Worm three times, stepping past it with the third slash before turning around and running his blade into the Worm's chest.
The Worm let out a pained and pitiful cry as it tried to grab Ixa's arm, only for the knight to pull the blade back out, causing the Worm to fall to its knees before exploding.
"Where did that..." Ixa began as an alert blared inside his helmet, causing him to turn around. "MAMI! BEHIND YOU!"
Mami turned around just in time to see something large and white take up half her vision as she quickly raised her device to counter.
Ixa's warning had reached Decade's ears just as he forced the other two Whitestorm Commander Worms out of Clock Up.
He turned around just in time for a splattering noise to reach his ears.
It was if he was watching the scene in slow motion.
A fourth Commander Worm had appeared and placed itself just behind Mami.
It had ran one of its large stingers through Mami's face just as she was turning around.
The result was that the stinger had tore a large chunk of the right side of Mami's head open, tearing out an eye in the process, causing the young woman to spin slightly as she was thrown off of her feet and was falling toward the floor.
Not before she pulled the trigger of her device however, as the device immediately fired its bullet into the Worm's eye in retaliation.
Chapter's End Corner:
Harouki: Yeah...decided to end it off here. The chapter was getting way too damn long.
Lelouch: I will murder you.
Hayate: Noooo! We still need him!
Sayaka: We can do with someone better in my opinion...
Harouki: Well, let's see how this goes. See you next time.