A/N: Well, here is another chapter to make up for the time this has been on hiatus for.
Special Thanks to Jamieofthemegacosmos for proofreading and his touch-ups on the chapter.
Actually, a fun fact Lelouch's enhancements have been based on the Extremis Virus from the Marvel Comics, not the MCU version, but watered down a little bit. Lelouch's body won't break under the strain of his own magic now, which will be quite helpful for what is to come.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed, so now on with the chapter.
The following day class, it was early afternoon when classes ended for the day with Lelouch more than happy that they finished.
I know this body is an artificial magical construct, but it is impressive how it feels no different from your average body, Lelouch mused, gazing at his open hand.
According to Peter, the possess of rebuilding his body continued to progress smoothly, providing that thanks to Amitie's data on her anatomy and biology had been vital. However, Lelouch was more than wary that the same was true for the Mandarin, meaning he had the means to augment the bodies of anyone now using the same data.
I suspect he will enhance his closest followers first, especially the next time we see that crazy lunatic of a Knight, he acknowledged as he recalled Gray.
As Lelouch walked along the pathway leading towards the student council building for the afternoon meeting, Quattro had already made her way to her room within the underground base. She was using one of the monitors to closely monitor the vital signs from Lelouch's body while keeping herself up to date on the progress of the reconstruction of his body.
Everything is progressing well, Quattro remarked internally. The computer presently showed the reconstruction of Lelouch's skeleton had finished, and his muscles were nearing completion. Many of his internal organs were in the process of remodeling. However, at least his heart and lungs had finished.
I am looking forward to how well his new body will work out.
Typing a few commands, Quattro brought up the technical specifications of the improvements to Lelouch's Barrier Jacket. The integrated Formula Suit meant he had improved combat performance and magical abilities.
I am eager to see the finished product.
Quattro typed in other commands before an alert drew her attention. She quickly brought it up on her monitor when Sette entered the room.
"Sister, I have come with a question," the young Cyborg asked.
"Please knock next time!" Quattro said before she quickly dismissed an open monitor with one of the bodies of the combat androids they recovered.
I do not want Sette to have an identity crisis on me, Quattro thought, fearing what would happen if she continued to see the machines that looked like her. However, Sette was more interested in something on one of the other screens that Quattro brought up.
"Are those my other sisters?" Sette replied, causing Quattro to see Wendi helping what appeared to be an injured Sein.
Huh, so what happened to Sein, I wonder?
"We have been making some progress, but we believe the NAC have their headquarters near Mt. Fuji," Cinque reported while speaking to their creator.
"I see, and anything else to report? What of Sein?"
"We haven't heard from Sein since last night, but I sent Wendi, too," Cinque began to explain before she was interrupted.
Just then, the door to their safehouse slammed open. The Numbers snapped their attention to their new guests, who was none other than Wendi and Sein. Their presence startled their siblings and surprised their creator as the older one limped inside with her injuries. Although she covered the wound on her waist, the scrapes on her arms and legs were draining her. With the last of her strength, she stood up with a victory pose with a thumb drive before collapsing onto the couch.
"Sein!" Sein's sisters were more concerned about her health now than the fact she arrived. Cinque was the first to tend to her sister. She tore off her clothes, checked her pulse, and ensured none of her wounds were spilling any blood. Fortunately, there was nothing critical. She was just so tired that she fell into a slumber, but the injuries and scratches on her body were not something to ignore.
"Her vitals are stable," Cinque assured. "However, these injuries are very troubling."
Sein appeared to have been in some kind of disaster or accident, which left parts of her suit damaged. She had cuts and bruises on her face with some blood from her forehead, but despite the injuries, Sein was still alive.
"The drive," Sein said like she was giving a dying wish. "You'll see everything from there..."
With that, the Number went into a deep sleep. She was not dead by any means, but it will be a while before she regained her energy to talk, let alone walk on her two feet. The Numbers did not know when that would be, but they at least had something to go on with their investigation.
"Well," Nove stood up, tossed the drive into the air, and snatched it. "Let's see what our sisters obtained that makes it so valuable."
"I appreciate it," the Doctor agreed with them. "Besides, it would be intriguing to see what the natives of that world have uncovered this time."
"You called for me, Headmaster?" Lelouch asked politely, opening the door.
Lelouch had received a summons to the Headmaster's office, which surprised the young man since it was unexpected. However, the reason for his summons became apparent when he saw a familiar young woman, which explained the reasons for being called.
"Alisa?" Lelouch recognized Alisa Bunnings as she stood near the Headmaster's desk.
"Hey, Lelouch," Alisa greeted. She wore a pink and red striped T-shirt with bright red jeans and white sneakers.
"Thank you for coming, Mr. Lamperouge," the Headmaster Ruben Ashford welcomed as he sat behind his desk. "As you know, Milly usually likes giving the new students a tour; however, Miss Bunnings has requested you instead. She tells me you know each other."
"I see," Lelouch replied with a nod before offering his hand to Alisa, "I am surprised you would enroll here? I thought you were attending another school?"
"Not really," Alisa answered, folding her arms. "I was homeschooled after some terrorists tried to attack my last school. Thankfully, I was not there that day, but you can imagine that freaked my mom out."
"I can only imagine," Lelouch commented.
"So, since you and Nunnally are the only ones I know, mind showing me around?" Alisa said before putting her hands on her hips.
"Actually," Lelouch's eyes turned. "There's a couple of other people I think you know."
"Oh?" Alisa tilted her head with her arms crossed. "And who would that be?"
"First of all, you should know that Ruben's granddaughter lives here," Lelouch left her facepalming herself for forgetting. The other one left her in surprise. "The other one is our old friend Suzaku."
"Suzaku is here today?" Alisa inquired.
"I think he was in the student council clubhouse that last time I saw him."
As if Lelouch spoke of the devil, the door opened behind them, revealing Suzaku Kururugi in his school uniform.
"Ah, good to see you, too, Mr. Kururugi," Ruben also welcomed the Honorary Britannian.
"Good to see you, too, Headmaster. I got your message from Milly saying you needed me," Suzaku stopped when he noticed something he didn't expect. "A-Alisa, what are you doing here?"
"What am I doing?" Alisa reacted, annoyed that someone asked her twice. "I'm going to be a student here at Ashford Academy! I never thought I expected you to show up!"
"It's funny," Suzaku chuckled. "I never expected you to show up in this academy either. It looks like I found the reason why you called me here."
"Indeed," Lelouch said in agreement. "I suppose aside from maybe Milly, only Suzaku and I know her the best, so it makes sense."
"So, where do we start with the tour?" Alisa replied with a smirk. "I am sure we can talk as we go, or we'll be all day."
"Well, we can always start with the clubhouse," Suzaku offered for a start, knowing it was not far from the Headmaster's office. "I'm sure Milly and the others would be happy to see you."
"True, but if we see them first, then we'll be stuck in the clubhouse all day, and Alisa will not see much of the school," Lelouch pointed out. "I suggest we see them last."
"Well," Suzaku began, but couldn't think of a counter-argument.
"It's fine," Alisa replied. "I prefer it that way. I rather spend some time with you two since we haven't seen each other ages."
"That settles it then," Lelouch said before heading to the door. "Follow me."
While Lelouch took the lead, the story that Amitie gave Suzaku still lingered in his mind. The Eltrian girl remained in her given room, not bothered by the Special Corps unit in charge of the base. However, he still had many questions that were outside of her knowledge. With what the three Aces have gone through, not to mention being unable to find them for the past couple of days, he could just ask them directly. But he wondered if anyone else knew about what the girls had been up to these past seven years. Suzuka was gone, too, though he heard her company's officials got selected for the NAC who administered the Eleven's affairs. The only other option he had was Alisa.
I never thought I had this opportunity come up to me, Suzaku contemplated his options over interrogating the girl for the matter. There was no way he would be able to do that unless she was alone, where no one would overhear their conversation. Nonetheless, I am not the one who likes secrets. If Alisa is involved in this, I will figure it out sooner or later.
Back inside their clubhouse hideout, Cinque had finished mending Sein's injuries, so she was now resting in one of the other rooms to recover. Despite how serious her injuries, Sein was fortunate she was able to get to Cinque to help her. Furthermore, the Cyborg's cybernetics and suit that she wore protected her from most of it.
The video and the data Sein brought back had already been given to Uno, and with the Doctor also present by hologram, the gathered group began watching the video file Sein had made for them.
"I am ready, Doctor," Uno reported.
"Begin, Uno," The Doctor replied.
The video file started with some static before it cleared up, showing Sein's face as she walked forward.
"It is now July 28th, 0072 NC, around 18:22 Earth time," the Cyborg spoke like she was making an apocalyptic log. An explosion in the background that rocked the corridor interrupted her. Several guards were giving out orders as screams of scientists drowned out the hail of gunfire. "I just got myself into the super-secret, super-scary underground base operated by none other than the vicious Britannians. If anybody gets this, please bring this to Ashford Academy. Look for my sisters in one of the clubhouses. If you do, our father, the Doctor, will greatly reward you for your contributions."
The camera turned away, and Sein seemed to strap it on over her head. The Numbers were baffled over her miserable attempt at theatrics, though the Doctor gave a little chuckle.
"What is this, some B-rated found footage film?" Wendi remarked as her companion.
"Is she trying to compromise our hideout or something!?" An annoyed Nove also spoke up, facepalming herself in front of the screen.
"I don't know," Cinque shook her head. "But whatever was in that base was certainly after her life."
An exchange of gunfire sprayed both sides of the corridors. The first stream consisted of typical firearm rounds carried by the Britannian soldiers. The second stream was spewing out blue kinetic or energy projectiles, quite different from traditional bullets. Two of three scientists got shot upon fleeing through the corridor, and Sein doubted the last one survived regardless of which side got him. The stains on the wall and nearby corpses indicated that the place was already a blood bath.
"Boy, this sure turned into a fire zone very fast," Sein said in the camera. "Doesn't make sense to continue walking out here. I better use my Deep Dive ability to get a closer look."
With that, Sein sank into one of the nearby walls. For a moment, the metal and rock she phased through obstructed the camera view. The video went to static before it returned to normal. This time, there was only her hand visible as she peeked out with her Periscopic Eye.
"Stop them now! Don't let them deeper into the facility!" The guards ordered as they continued to repel the attackers.
"Evac, quickly, get to the elevator!" Another shouted as he signaled a couple more scientists to run to another branch of the hallway. However, they were met with more kinetic energy weapons, riddled them along with two of the guards.
Sein could only view the legs of the invading soldiers, which look pretty feminine in appearance, very much like the Numbers. She then turned to the team of soldiers, where she discovered them all to be identically female soldiers with short pink hair, visors, and arm-mounted weapons.
"What are those things?"
"I don't know," Dieci answered among them. "But the Black Knights uncovered something similar back in one of their trucks."
The video went dark again before the video came back. Sein had likely positioned herself above the ceiling, judging by the angle of the camera. From there, the Doctor and Sein's sisters saw the Androids marching down the hallway while gunning down anyone unfortunate enough to be in their path.
The armed soldiers tried to stop them, but instead of blinding walking forward to rush them, the androids dodged the gunfire from the armed soldiers. By switching their weapons into swords, the machines swiftly cut down their opponents before they could flee.
"Is it just me, or do those androids look like one of our younger sisters?" Dieci noticed the gritty resemblance of the pink-haired soldiers to one of their own.
"I thought the same thing!" Wendi exclaimed, recalling her own experience with them. "It's like Quattro just took Sette, strapped some new weapons onto her, and then put her in a cloning machine to mass-produce."
"They can't be," Nove objected. "I don't recall Sette having any of those weapons installed on her!"
"And if she did, she would have kept her Inherent Skills," Uno also pointed out. "I don't recall her programming to have emotions either."
"Must be a coincidence then," Wendi remarked. "But who would create such weapons? I don't remember seeing anything like those back in the Bureau."
"Indeed, which means we are dealing with something else entirely," Jail lamented as he analyzed the weapons. "Based on the information from the drive and what Dieci found out, they're most likely the equivalent to our Gadget Drones."
Sein followed the androids for now until she retreated into the ceiling. After some moments in darkness, the video resumed in another room.
"What do we do now?" the first male scientist among the group said. "Chief Everson has been killed, and the main elevator has been taken over!"
"All of the communication lines are down," the second male scientist lamented. "At this rate, we'll never get a signal to the outside!"
"It's too late for us to leave," the supervisor among the guards lamented. "For now, we'll just have to stop them from getting the treasure."
"How do we do that?" the first male scientist argued. "No one has direct access to the vault, and we've been without contact from Clovis for months by now!"
"Then we'll have to destroy everything they could get from here!" the security officer ranted. "From my understanding, the reactor is on the B4-Level, right below the vault where the main test subject is in stasis. If we overload it, we can destroy the whole underground facility, and everything within will be instantly fried."
"And sacrifice all our lives in the process?" the third female scientist in despair.
"What about our lives!?" the chief guard went mad as he grabbed the only woman among the researchers. "Did you not hear!? It's too late for us now!"
Before he could say anymore, an explosion occurred by the barricaded door. The scientists ran for their lives as the guards opened fire. As the soldiers were immediately gunned down by the female android weapons, the chief of them took out a grenade.
"Eat this, you damn bitches!"
The quartet of enemy soldiers gunned down the last man but not before he threw his grenade. All four of them got taken out as flames spread throughout the office space for a short period. The fireball was enough for Sein to get back into the ceiling, making static out of the video feed again.
The darkness lasted much longer this time, but once the video returned, Sein was presumably inside the vault mentioned judging by the heavily fortified walls. However, the marks upon the wall were an indication a battle had taken place here.
"Attention, those who are watching this," Sein announced as she approached the crumbled entrance. "This is the climactic moment that we're waiting for; the ultimate horror the Brits locked up that's the source of all the secrecy, and their horrors."
The watching Numbers panned as at her futile attempts to make a horror movie out of the situation.
"Now, behold the main treasure behind this secret facility by Sein herself," the Cyborg said before muttering to herself. "Steady breaths, Sein. Steady breaths..."
The Numbers and Doctor continued to watch as the middle sister gain her composure. Through the echoing screams and gunfire she could hear within the facility, she would be the first outsider to know what was so valuable to Britannians in this part of the world. She stepped carefully with her initial steps, but once she contacted the rubble, she quickly hurried inside. A dim light shone into the room that felt light the sun shining in her eyes.
"AAAGGGHHH, THE HORROR!" Wendi went into a panic, but with her imitating voice, she fooled nobody.
"This isn't a horror movie, Wendi," Cinque brought the younger Number back into reality
"I know, I was just trying to-" the redhaired girl tried to wave it off before freezing. Her startled eyes gazed at the screen. Her mouth stuttered, unable to talk over what she just saw. "W-What the hell!?"
The remaining Numbers went back to the screen and found Uno and Dr. Jail just as surprised. The room became dimly lit, and the place was decent for its size, with a few consoles surrounding a glowing glass stasis tank filled with liquid. But what, or rather who was inside, shocked everyone the most.
"Hey, that's supposed to be my line!" Nove chewed out Wendi before returning to the screen. "What the hell is going on here!?"
Inside, the woman wore a white patient's nightgown that covered much of her body. However, a countless number of ECG wire dotted all over her body. The ECGs linked the girl to all of the monitors outside of the capsule. She also had a rebreathing mask, which the Numbers suspected had kept her in stasis. The clear solution caused the white gown to cling to the body of Amitie Florian. It revealed not only most of the ECGs attached to her body but also the white undergarments meant to preserve her modesty.
"I guess she is alive," Sein remarked as she approached a control console revealing Amitie's vital signs, showing they were stable.
Pulling out a small electronic drive, Sein connected it to one of the computer consoles to begin extracting the data stored within. However, this action prompted a response as automated turrets appeared from hidden panels in the ceiling. Upon seeing them, Sein retreated into the walls, which was fortunate because the rubble blocking the entrance to the vault moved.
"Mother, we have located the target," one of the android soldiers reported as they secured the room. "She is currently in stasis, untouched by the enemy."
"Mother?" Cinque raised an eyebrow to their commander's name.
"You know what to do," the soldier's leading officer responded at Sein could slightly hear. "Execute the next phase immediately."
Within moments as the androids had cleared away the last of the rubble, one of them had its head shot off by a precise energy blast from one of the turrets.
"I guess we know what happened to those machines outside the vault," Cinque mused, suspecting a clash between the automated defenses outside the vault must have caused the ceiling to collapse in front of the entrance.
"Whoever that woman is, she must be worth the extensive security measures," Jail commented.
Sein cautiously kept her finger out so everyone watching the footage could see the battle between the automated turrets and the androids. The laser turrets proceeded to gun down the androids with ease, but after a dozen androids entered the room to eliminate them. As the remaining enemy soldiers entered the room, an electric field from a coil above wiped them all out, a testament to the vault's security measures.
Sein emerged from the wall at this point to retrieve her computer drive, seeing that it had wholly downloaded all of the data contained within the mainframe connected to the room. However, Sein noticed in the battle with the automated turrets that a stray shot had damaged the stasis unit. Alarms went off, showing the young woman awakening from her slumber. Not wanting to be around, Sein withdrew into the wall. But like before, she was mindful to leave her Periscopic Eye out to monitor and record events.
Amitie opened her eyes as she regained consciousness, and once she was aware of her surroundings, she fought her way out. The glass did not shatter with one punch, but after struggling, Amitie smashed the containment cell, causing the solution to spill across the ground. Amitie's steps were shaky at first, but she quickly recovered before searched the room, noticing the destroyed androids on the ground.
Moments later, Amitie noticed something on a table nearby, which was a small blue device. Upon activating it, Amitie's entire appearance transformed, wearing her Formula Suit, and turned her Device into a sword. Without another word, Amitie left with a determined look on her face.
Once Sein was sure Amitie was out of earshot, she emerged from the wall.
"I know this might be crazy, but I think I'll tail her and learn more about her," Sein said, speaking to the camera.
Mindful to keep a safe distance, Sein entered the ceilings, giving her a bird's eye view of Amitie's actions. Amitie would run into androids along the way, but despite their best efforts, Amitie would quickly cut them down. However, Sein noticed her did not seem to know where the exit was.
The pattern repeated until she ran into Zero.
"It's Zero, and he has our sisters with him!" Wendi exclaimed.
No one said anything further, but they watched a battle erupt between Amitie, Zero, and his bodyguards. The fight progressed until Zero activated an ability that empowered him before firing a shot that sent Amitie flying back, but this also caused the hallway to collapse with Sein caught in the collapse.
"So that's what happened," Cinque said as the video ended. "Sein was caught in the collapse and wounded as a result."
"That's twice she has almost gotten killed," Nove remarked.
"I know," Jail replied with both arms folded. "I think, for the time being, Sein will not undertake further recon missions on her own."
"I agree," Cinque replied with a nod.
"At least we won't have to worry about her making any B-rated footage movies again," Nove remarked before asking the Doctor. "So, what should we do now?"
"For now, continue to observe and maintain your cover within the Black Knights," Dr. Jail answered. "I'll ask Uno to see if she can learn anything further about what happened. She reported earlier that the TSAB attempted to abduct someone connected to the Mandarin as he and a convoy of Britannians were on their way to that research facility. I suspect the two incidents might be connected."
"In other words, we should lay low for now?" Cinque asked.
"Yes," the Doctor nodded. "For now, until we know more."
Somewhere in Osaka, Suzuka was leaning over a catwalk, observing things happening below her with a tired expression on her face.
"What a pain," Suzuka mused.
Suzuka wished for some peace in futility as Yoshimitsu Troopers were busy moving everything. She hiked the peace would last a little longer with Gray out of the picture for the time being. Her hopes were short-lived as they had a new crisis on their hands.
The current base of LOGOS had been on alert since the previous operation to assassinate Clovis was aborted. The reveal of what they were up against did not help matters either. Her uncontrolled anger already caused her to break two teacups, including a one she just snapped the handle off.
"Easy now," the Mandarin stepped forward, witnessing the girl's unstable set of the mind. He took the teacup from her hand to repair it. "There's no need for you to be uptight."
"Please forgive me, Mandarin-sama," Suzuka apologized. "I'm just agitated by the recent events."
"Your frustration is the same among everyone else here," the Mandarin watched Kusakabe order his men to move creates containing the stolen Lost Logia. "Kyrie's interference has caused a lot of trouble for all of us. The feeling is mutual."
"I agree wholeheartedly," Suzuka did not deny. "It's about what they managed to do, in addition to the trouble they caused for us."
"I do not deny it. The girl and her compatriots' attack have wounded both Aces and left Captain Takamachi in a critical state."
"If only I were there," Suzuka muttered, agitated about their recent achievements. "I would have killed them and taken the Book of Darkness myself. And would have killed Clovis, too!"
"There was nothing you could have done," Mandarin tamed the unstable girl as she put her teacup down. "Besides, setting aside the fact they allowed the TSAB to abduct Clovis, I doubt they would get off easy in any way."
"More than just provoking the TSAB?" Suzuka inquired, knowing they would never take the whole thing lying down.
"We have intercepted reports indicating survivors from that previous battle, particularly General Darlton and his sons. I also expect the Lancelot unit to have uncovered what was inside the facility as well. Although they were unlikely to take the story to the public, it won't be long before word gets out about the existence of magic and TSAB to the Britannian authorities."
"Isn't that a serious problem for us?" Suzuka asked.
"It is, but I am already taking steps to address it, I assure you."
"All this to save her little planet?" Suzuka recalled the information they received from Mao and how they managed to coordinate the attack perfectly. More surprising to her was how they learned not only about the Aces but also Suzaku Kururugi, who had long since enlisted into the military as the pilot of the Lancelot, who they intended to take hostage. "Even if that Kyrie girl and her friends did her homework, they should already know that they picked a fight with two great superpowers just to obtain the Book of Darkness. And soon, they're going to know what happens when they mess with us."
"Do not underestimate them," the Mandarin warned. "They might be mercenaries, but Zilkhstan's soldiers are the highest in quality with each squad capable of taking down a battalion of Britannian soldiers. And the Hückebein are more than simple killers as they dealt with the TSAB many times without any losses of their own."
"But why go so far?" That was the biggest question on their mind. "They're well aware of what they got themselves into just by hearing from that Florian girl. Why would they follow this girl when they know well it's still a war they can't win?"
"That I do not know, but we know this more than just a mere mercenary contract with the High Priestess," the Mandarin recalled how Kyrie managed to get the kingdom's help. By sheer luck, they managed to contact the son of their great general while he was on mandatory military service and used his connection to get close to the High Priestess. From there, they explained everything to her and were allowed to establish a base of operations within their borders. Judging by the size of the base, they amassed quite the army since they arrived. "And Kyrie's friend is likely more behind this operation."
"Her A.I. companion, the one called Iris," Suzuka remembered the name. "She's the one Mao could not read."
"Mao's Geass only works on sentient life forms; A.I.s are another matter. However, we at least know what they seek."
"The Eternal Crystal. Something that's sounds so much like from a fairy tale."
"Yet, it exists somewhere on this planet," the Mandarin unfortunately confirmed. "While I also question the power and abilities of this crystal, it is beyond doubt that Kyrie and her followers will go to even the greatest of lengths to obtain it."
"Sir," Kusakabe interrupted the discussion, getting the attention of his boss and their other ally as he saluted. "My apologies, sir, but we've just transported all of the Lost Logia crates just as we planned."
"Is there a problem?" The masked figure inquired why he would report the task to him.
"Well, sir, we discovered some extra crates that got mixed up with the Lost Logia we stole from the first attack in Midchilda. They're not Jewel Seeds or ancient weapons of any type you addressed."
"They are upgrades for you and Miss Suzuka," the Mandarin explained. "With the appearance of this new party, I thought the time was right to introduce the new upgrades I have prepared for both of you and the others."
"Upgrades?" Suzuka asked.
"Yes, I have perfected my bio-enhancement nanomachines so I can not only rebuild your entire body. I can make it both stronger and more durable, so it will not strain under your magical power."
"But my magic is artificial, isn't it?"
"Yes and limited by the cybernetics within you. Once I remake your body with these nanomachines, you will be capable of far greater levels of magical power putting you above the Three Aces," The Mandarin answered, causing a devious smile to appear on Suzuka's face.
"Really, so when do we get started?"
"As soon as you're ready," the Mandarin answered before turning to the rogue JLF Colonel. "At the same time, I'll be burrowing Murasame for now, so you'll be able to deal with our new foes in the upcoming battles."
"Understood, sir, however," Kusakabe acknowledged before turning the artificial mage. "Lady Suzuka, perhaps we should inform Kyoto of what happened to their machines given your words to Lady Kaguya? For the sake of appearances?"
Suzuka's mood soured instantly, but Kusakabe had a point.
Lindy and Chrono Harlaown were stationed at the bridge that morning. The majority of the High Command was on the line, partly thanks to the interruption from Alex, which shocked the two commanders onboard the Arthra. But their panic paled in comparison to their superior officers over the outcome of the latest events.
Their first care of business was reporting their success in detaining Clovis. It was fortunate that it was a success, especially for Chrono, as it was his proposal in the first place. With a man most likely affiliated with the Mandarin in their custody, they were a step ahead in hunting down the most wanted terrorist in the Dimensional Sea.
However, there was always the saying about springing one step forward and falling two or more steps backward. After going over detaining the former Viceroy, they then went over what happened afterward. They started with the wounds each of the members received, including Nanoha's current state and Hayate's missing Device, which already caused outrage among the officers. The situation escalated even further once they reported that they were wounds from a new faction, which included the infamous Hückebein Family that somehow made its way to Earth.
"Just when you finally gain a lead, a new problem emerges," Midget Crowbel sighed.
"It would seem so," Lindy said in agreement.
"How are they?" Leone Phils asked, inquiring about the current states of Nanoha and others who were injured by the Hückebein Family.
"Captain Takamachi suffered the most injuries, but she is on the road to recovery," Chrono answered. "The others will be fully recovered soon."
"That is at least good to hear," Largo Kiel replied with a sigh. "However, this presents a serious problem. First, the Mandarin, the Black Knights, and now the Hückebein Family. Our resources and military power have been stretched too thin."
Chrono took a deep breath, "I know, and we were going to ask for reinforcements."
"Under normal circumstances, we would comply with your request, but as my companion mentioned, we just don't have anyone to spare," Midget answered regrettably. "However, we can send Miss Mariel Atenza to provide technical support. As for reinforcements, you'll have to accept those from the academy."
"Academy?" Lindy asked in shock.
"You mean trainees from the academy?" Chrono asked in disbelief, which Midget answered with a nod.
"With our efforts spread so thin, we very reluctantly had to accelerate and graduate many from the academies much sooner than we would've liked," Leone added, not happy about the decision.
"So, who will you be sending to us?" Lindy asked reluctantly.
"We'll forward you a list of those we have selected as soon as they are ready," Midget answered.
"Alright," Chrono said before moving onto another matter. "However, there is another matter we need to mention."
"What is it?" Midget inquired, clearly both worried yet curious.
"We discovered back in the Ou mountains, a native who survived the LOGOS attack. We are sure he survived thanks to the ejection block recovered, which provides a ninety percent chance of survival, including the footsteps we uncovered."
"Have we learned this survivor's identity?" Midget asked, clearly concerned.
"That is still under investigation," Lindy shook her head. "Unfortunately, we've been unable to obtain the I.D. number; it appears that the pilot data has been deleted a while after the battle. Only the name Jeremiah has been the most we have recovered."
"And I understand there were other witnesses in your latest mess," Gaiz pointed out, waiting for the right moment to step in.
"Yes, we fear General Andreas Darlton and his sons as well as others in the Britannian military who survived the battle have witnessed magic and became aware of its existence. He and others were also close to seeing magic at Port Yokosuka, if not for the actions of some."
Lindy said that a subtle way of putting salt in Gaiz's wound over the blunder of a man he had personally assigned whose error nearly cost him.
"This time, there was no way they could've avoided seeing everything," Carim added.
"And why wasn't anything done about it then?" Gaiz demanded.
"Isn't it obvious most of the team needed medical attention by that point?" Carim replied sharply. "Who was available who could've done anything about it?"
"And that is not even the worse of the situation," Midget began with a sigh. "The enemy has the Book of Darkness, but I recall the leader of the Hückebein Family has the Bible of Silver Cross, don't they?"
Chrono nodded reluctantly.
As far as the TSAB knew, the Bible of Silver Cross was presumably a Lost Logia from the Belkan Era. Regrettably, they knew very little about it since the Hückebein Family currently holds the only copy. They could guess it was some kind of weapon control device perhaps similar to the Book of Darkness, but no one knew for sure.
"Frankly, with that in mind, I must ask that we focus on recovering the Book of Darkness from the Hückebein Family," Midget said. However, upon noticing Gaiz about to say something, Midget stepped in to quiet any protest. "As much as we need to track down the Mandarin, we cannot ignore the danger the Hückebein represents, and not knowing their objective makes them a problem that can grow worse if we leave it unattended."
"I concur," Lindy said in agreement. "However, in the meantime, we'll question Prince Clovis on what he knows. Hopefully, by the time we finish resolving this latest incident, we'll have some new leads on the Mandarin."
"Very well," Midget said with a nod. "Then, I will instruct Miss Atenza to assist in modifying and upgrading your weapons to help resolve this issue as soon as possible once she arrives."
"Very well then," Lindy acknowledged with Chrono, shortly before Midget closed the meeting.
"Now, if that is all, we are dismissed."
With that, all of the screens closed with the two Haralowns alone. While the meeting went better than expected, the stress over the amount on their plate caught up to them. At least, for now, they got some extra hands to deal with this latest case and someone who could lead them to the Mandarin. Chrono wondered if they conduct a similar operation to apprehend members of the Black Knights, thus, finding more on Zero as well.
Back in the Government Bureau, the members of the Glaston Knights had various reactions to what happened after the battle two days ago.
"Please turn that off," Bart told Edgar, who had a phone open the whole time. "We've seen enough of that already."
The screen on Edgar's phone had footage from his Gloucester, which everything he saw since the start of the ambush. Through the sacks on his eyes, his brothers could see he had not slept well, watching the same video over and over again.
"We all saw it," Claudio supported his brother. "There's no denying anything that happened that day."
"It's even more troubling that His Highness wants to have a word with us," Alfred turned to the man leading them. "Isn't that right, father?"
Leading his sons down the hallway of the Viceroy's Palace, General Darlton was not looking forward to his upcoming meeting the Prime Minister. In many ways, Darlton was glad it was not the Emperor they were speaking to, but they probably would have been arrested by now if such was the case.
Nevertheless, that did not ease Darlton's nerves about the upcoming meeting.
Arriving at their destination, Darlton and his sons entered the room, where a giant monitor on the far side of the decorated room. Not long after they took their seats with Alfred and his father in the middle, the monitor turned on.
A screen displayed the Schneizel on the other line. The Second Prince of Britannia left Japan just before the battle at Port Yokosuka, working to continue with Britannia's campaign against Europa on the African continent. He did not hear about the recent events until after he returned from holding off the advancing troops in North Africa. Upon hearing the disaster at the port, Schneizel contacted the Emperor and asked why his father did not inform him of the tragedy earlier. His father replied that the situation was under control, and he was no longer needed in the area, a mark indicating that he should not dig in deeper than necessary.
Nonetheless, he kept a close eye on Area 11 through the ASSEC unit he stationed there. He was informed of Clovis's discrete release since he also questioned about the experiments he was doing. The Emperor gave him the same answer to stay out of it. After the latest incident involving Clovis, he could no longer turn a blind eye and had to question the survivors of the attack.
"Thank you for responding to my message, General Darlton," the Prime Minister addressed the shaken father and his sons. "I also appreciate the Glaston Knights participating in the meeting as well."
"I understand, Your Highness," the General felt unnerved about the purpose of the meeting. "I assume that you came to discuss the nature of the previous operation."
"Indeed, and I'm ashamed that Clovis has gone missing as well," Schneizel gave his consultancy before moving on. "But the real issue here is your report of what happened during the night of the ambush."
"I admit that it would be met with high skepticism, Your Highness," Darlton confessed as he looked to his complying sons.
After they destroyed all of the enemy machines, the Darlton siblings changed priorities from reaching the laboratory to recovery operations. Despite the damage to their Gloucesters, the Glaston Knights were the only active military personnel in the area. Furthermore, they appeared to be the only surviving personnel of the operation save for the ASSEC unit that went ahead, and few wounded and unconscious soldiers they found. Even the soldiers who protected Clovis inside his vehicle did not make it as some unknown small arms weapon obliterated them, and that discounted the Prince himself going missing.
The Glaston Knights agreed with their father that there was no way they could adequately report this. Mainly, it was because aside from the army of Knightmares and deformed construction vehicles, there were all those young girls with colorful energy weapons that combatted them. Unfortunately, apart from the footage from Edgar's Gloucester over the two additional suspects who got away on motorcycles after the battle, they did not have much evidence to report everything if they wanted to do so. It also did not help that those fused construction machines and strange girls disappeared right after, leaving almost nothing to show.
"From your report, you said that was just a simple terrorist attack, with the enemy ambushing you with old Knightmares and construction machines used as improvised fighting vehicles," Schneizel went over the report. "You even pinpointed the plausible location of where they obtained such vehicles, which was right by your path while transporting Prince Clovis."
"Our investigation indicated that it was the nearby facility located less than a mile from Highway 504."
"Yes, but that's what gave me suspicions about the incident," Schneizel went on. "You never identified the group responsible for the attack, nor investigated how they managed to obtain such machines in the first place. That construction yard was closed off and operated by a Britannian company. We would have known if someone hijacked these vehicles, as no personnel tried to infiltrate the facility before the battle began. We even heard that they were the missing equipment that the Elevens' industrialists reported since last month. Counting the fact that my half-brother's return to Area 11 was confidential, I doubt this was a simple terrorist operation conducted by the populace."
"I would like to say it was by the Black Knights or remnants of the Japan Liberation Front, but..." General Darlton trailed at the moment. The failure of protecting Clovis, along with Cornelia, was already going to look horribly on his record. What was worse than that was losing all credibility by writing down what happened for real.
"General Darlton, please inform me exactly what went wrong. I assure you that I'll come to your defense over everything you say about the mission."
"B-But, Your Highness," David interjected from the group. "If we told you everything, you won't believe us!"
"That I am aware," Schneizel assured the other Galston Knights calmed their brother down. "That's why this conversation is classified. Even the Emperor does not know anything about this. But I won't be able to help if no one is willing to speak the truth."
The brothers and their father looked at each other, wondering who should go first. David was right about one thing, and that was the ultimate reason for their accurate yet falsified report. What they saw when Prince Clovis disappeared could not be so easily explained to anyone, and even if they were able to report it, what were the chances that anyone would believe them? It stung their pride, but they had to cover up the real reason behind the recent fiasco as to avoid getting swamped with questions from outside forces. Another panic was not something that they needed.
"If you're that worried about telling me everything, then let me inform you that you're not the only team that experienced strange phenomenon," Schneizel surprised the Glaston Knight as he went on. "The ASSEC unit under my command has filled me in on the various abnormal activity that has happened in Area 11, ever since one of our Lancelot units got stolen back in Shinjuku Ghetto. These include the traces of destruction left behind at Narita and Yokosuka. Our last report even uncovered the mystery inside the facility as part of my brother's Code R project."
"I-I was never informed of this, Your Highness," Darlton admitted. The Glaston Knights were also startled by the Prince's words as they had not been completely caught up to date about it either.
"These strange occurrences were far too advanced and rumored to be supernatural for terrorists and our armed forces. Therefore, we have done our best to keep a lid on the situation to avoid a panic. No one but me and the units under my command has fully grasped the situation. The credibility of your report is no longer a concern."
"W-We understand, Your Highness," Alfred accepted as his brother nodded. They were still uneasy to explain everything, but at least they had someone of high authority willing to listen to them. The Second Prince, who was also Prime Minister of the Britannia, was far more than enough.
"Now then," Schneizel sought to move on. "Before I fill you in on everything that recently came from my unit, please tell me exactly what happened during the time Clovis got abducted from your care."
The Glaston Knights turned their heads over to their father, who had the highest rank and authority among them. As someone bearing responsibility for the disappearance of Prince Clovis and Princess Cornelia, not to mention hearing everything his sons had to say, it would make sense for him to speak for his entire unit. Thus, he began from start to finish about everything that happened that night.
The moon shone at night within the city of Chitose. Initially, it was a small city located on the island of Hokkaido. The southern territory of Tomakomai was a more active region of Japan thanks to its port before the war. Once the country fell and became Area 11, Chitose became a warehouse of products produced by the Eleven labor force while its neighbor served as a base for the Britannian Navy. However, the large warehouses and lack of oversight under Prince Clovis made it a significant hotspot for terrorist hideouts.
In one of the major industrial parks, a hunched man in a black and green vest guarded the door to a large warehouse that overlooked Lake Shikotsu. He had black eyes, a fair skin complexion, and magenta hair with several braids that went down his sides. He wore white gloves and an army green headband, which made him more of a bandit than a soldier.
The large man was on guard duty for his employer. Although only armed with a knife fit for a desert thief, his hulking body and sharpened senses made him more than a simple guard dog. If something came at him, he could easily detect them miles away just from his hairs from his nose. He found a couple of lurking by the corners, hoping to get inside. By the time when an average person could hear footsteps from the door, Bitool was already stalking by the corner, waiting to ambush them.
The bandit had the unholy feeling that he would pounce on pairs of girls who stranded into the area. He made his move as he jumped into the air and spun at his prey with his knife at hand. His lustrous look shifted to shock and annoyance when Fortis grabbed his arm.
"What the hell!?" He shouted as the young man gently laid his feet onto the ground.
"Settle down there," Fortis said with calm sincerity despite their ally suddenly attacking him. Although he admitted that the guy was incredibly strong, it was lackluster compared to his own, and he nowhere near as muscular. "We're here to see our client and report that we're all alive and kicking. Well, except for a few certain individuals."
Holding onto Fortis's left shoulder was a limping Swaile, who used the Hückebein as a makeshift crutch to support himself. The tears in his pants and scrapes on his knee indicated that he needed medical attention. Behind him were five members of the assassin team, all they could recover from the attack on the base.
"You're late, Fortis," another woman came from behind the large thug. She was a well-endowed woman in her twenties with dark skin. She had long blond hair that covered the gold eyepatch and monocle on her right eye. Her primary attire was a white coat that covered her purple suit and black shoes. She had dark metal katana held around her waist with style was Fortis's weapon.
"So it seems, Cypha," Fortis replied as he went around the hulking guard and approached his fellow family member. "We suffered some unfortunate setbacks and had to take the long way without getting any attention."
"Just get in here," Cypha ignored his excuses as she turned back to the warehouse entrance. "Sister Curren's waiting for you."
The two members of the Hückebein entered the warehouse through the standard doorway. Swaile let go of Fortis and grabbed onto the rails while his soldiers backed him up. The large guard made one last look around before he closed the door. He remained by the doorway as he overlooked the inside of the entrance.
Initially, the place held forklifts and cargo containers for Britannian vehicles. Now they were transformed into improvised fighting vehicles with advanced weapons installed onto them. The corners of the warehouse had a few Sutherlands stolen from the nearby base, each entrenched between the containers turned into platforms and stairways.
At the mid-center of the walls, however, were four other Knightmares that were not native to the area. These differed from those used by the usual terrorist forces and Britannian as they were tan-colored, four-legged machines with Landspinners. They also had two long cannons mounted on their shoulders, two Slash Harkens, and scissor claws for hands. Another unique feature was the lack of a Factosphere "head." Instead, they had large spherical sensors with red electronic eyes right on their cockpit seats.
That was the design for the Ghedo Vakka, the Kingdom of Zilkhstan's primary mass-production unit. On the opposite side of the doorway, one of them was unique as it had standard mechanical hands, blue colors, and a horn on its head. Its weapons were also different, equipped with a scimitar with a red and gold on its left side and two smaller cannons mounted under the Slash Harkens. Known as the Jarja Vakka, it was well suited as a commander unit.
While Kyrie Florian and Iris were within the warehouse with the Tome of the Night Sky, Swaile took a seat on a set of crates, allowing some of the soldiers to treat his wounds.
"Apologies for our delay, Sister," Fortis went to the rest of his family. He specifically called for the oldest woman of the family, who appeared in her late twenties. She had long blue hair and black eyes, wearing a black bikini top, split skirt, and shoes. "We had to steal an aircraft from the nearby airbase, but it only had enough fuel to get us onto this island, and there was no medical equipment on board."
"You made it back," Curren Hückebein remarked. "That's what's important."
"So, what happened?"
Curren then noticed an injured Swaile sitting on a crate with the surviving soldiers under his command. Iris also took note of this, and while going over the book, manifested a handful of syringes with green liquid in them.
"Here is some serum for our injured guests," the A.I. gave to her pink-haired companion. "One dose of this enough for each."
Kyrie nodded in compliance as she took the case of serums. She kindly walked over to Swaile first, stabbing the syringe into his wounded arm. It was painful at first, but seconds later, he was able to move it around without any pain. The other Iris Units took the other cases to tend to the other men.
"So, what exactly happened back there?" Curren questioned the casualties among their faction.
"We ran into unexpected resistance at the Code-R facility, but Veyron succeeded in helping Miss Florian secure the Book of Darkness."
"That's good," Curren replied with a nod. "But what kind of resistance?"
"Miss Florian's older sister proved more elusive than we thought, but she got lucky when she escaped with the aid of Suzaku Kururugi."
"An ordinary human helped the older sister escape you?" Curren asked in surprise.
"Regrettably, yes," Fortis admitted reluctantly.
"Then, this Suzaku must have the devil's luck."
"Indeed, he must've."
"A human with no magic got away from you? He has to be the luckiest bastard in the world."
The one who spoke was one of the younger members of the Hückebein, being in her teens with long wild red hair with grey eyes and a fair skin complexion. She wore light green shorts and a tattered black tank-top that barely covered her ample bosom. She also wore a small sleeveless green jacket, tan heavy shoes, and had a black tattoo extend from her left foot up the left side of her torso.
"Kinda shocking if you think about it," Arnage remarked.
In the background, the only member of the Hückebein family who remained silent was a muscular man in his early twenties wearing no shirt. He had long blue hair with dark eyes, wearing black and white pants, and a fair skin complexion. Unlike the majority of the Hückebein, Deville was the quietest of the family.
As the Hückebein family members talked among themselves, another associate who directed the men outside was up to speed. The man was in his late twenties wore a metal headband around his long olive-green hair possessing a fair skin complexion with green eyes. He wore grey boots and red robe, attire befitting a man of high military rank from his home country.
"So, they retrieved the book?" Shesthaal Forgnar asked while walking aside his fellow countryman.
"Yes, but they were unable to retrieve the older Florian sister," Belq Batoum Bitool answered.
"That is unfortunate, but a minor concern ultimately."
"Should we consider relocating to the second base we have secured?" Bitool commented to his superior. "Now that we have run afoul of the Britannians and those girls from the TSAB?"
"No, but we should hurry and proceed as planned, which means time will be of the essence," Shesthaal warned as he went over to Iris and Kyrie. "When will you have the key extracted?"
"Analysis shows that over half the data has been lost," Iris answered as she analyzed the Tome. "Further scan shows that some parts are still corrupted. It is something I'm unable to bypass."
"So you're saying the key is no longer within that little book," the Elite Guard Captain glared, not liking the indication.
"No, the key remains unscathed inside. But certain systems need repair before I can proceed further. It does not appear to be the result of the book's old defense program, but rather recent damage from a battle. History indicates that it has existed in this book for almost a year."
"For a year," Kyrie overheard her friend's analysis before turning to the Hückebein. "Miss Curren, didn't you and Veyron once come into contact with the original wielder around that time?"
"A year," Curren approached Kyrie upon hearing her name, contemplating before bumping her fist in her open palm upon realizing. "Oh, that's right. We ran into Miss Yagami a year ago, and I damaged her book. I guess they haven't repaired the damage."
"Was that the time you and Cypha were killing clones of us on Vaizen?" Fortis asked.
"Yes," Curren nodded her head. "That was the day."
"When can you have the system repaired?" Shesthaal demanded as grew impatient in the lack of progress.
"My estimation is about a week. Then, it could range from one to seven days to find the Eternal Crystal," Iris calculated to his disdain. "We'll have to report the delays in advance and reschedule our initial rendezvous time."
"Very well," Swaile acknowledged as he moved his healed arm around. "We shall prepare a meeting for Her Highness soon enough."
"Indeed, it's a shame, but nothing else can be done," Curren remarked. "Take your time, young ones, as we won't be going anywhere."
"As if I had enough time to waste," Cypha complained. "I'm getting tired of babysitting Stella already!"
"And who do you want to take your place?" Veyron retorted. "I know, why not have Fortis deal with it, for he's someone who can't have a job done right when it's needed!?"
"That's enough, Vey," Curren informally talked down the more aggressive member of her family. "We have our orders, so let them do our job while they do theirs."
"All I can say is that this job better be worth it.".
"I know, but that High Priestess has offered us a very nice deal," Curren replied with a grin. "Not to mention, I enjoy my time on Earth so far. No different from Orussia, but at least there are far more daily necessities than back in that wasteland."
"Not to mention a lot more different kinds of food and drink," Arnage chipped in happily.
"I suppose the food here isn't bad," Curren offered in agreement.
"Not to mention it can allow us to get closer to the Mandarin since he seems to be operating here," Fortis added while getting the conversation back on track.
"Yeah, although he bombed that Vandein Corporation facility something about it seemed off," Curren added, adopting a more concerned expression while folding her arms under her bosom. "Other than a few places that he hit, that bastard Hades didn't seem sincerely upset about the loss of his facilities."
"It's possible they could be working together as you suspect?"
"Yes, and only one way to know for sure," Curren turned to Shesthaal, Swaile, and Bitool. "Besides, we're getting a good deal working with these guys from Zilkhstan are paying us very well. Of course, if that girl finds this crystal and can turn even a barren nation into a lush one with resources, that could mean a much bigger payout for us."
"And that means more food for us," Arnage wolfed down another piece of pizza from Pizza Hut. She then eyed on Bitool, who merely smirked at them. "Let's hope some idiot doesn't get so greedy that he ends up screwing everything up."
"Of course, although they hired us to deal with the TSAB," Veyron added. "I'm disappointed they didn't put up a better fight."
"You know that's not the only reason why they hired us," Fortis explained. "The TSAB would surely not take this lying down, but they have a major weakness that allows us to have a complete hand over them."
"Which is?" Shesthaal lowered an eyebrow.
"Throughout the years, the Bureau has completely abandoned the use of mass weaponry, relying only on Mages to solidify their grip over the Dimensional Sea. They serve as a police force rather than a military unit, which means they are incapable of resorting to violence as we can. Our Eclipse powers counter their force completely, and as long we have our Dividers, they will not be able to lay a finger on us. That means they won't do anything against that adjutant girl or her little accomplice for now."
"For now," Shesthaal remarked.
"I doubt the TSAB will do us much harm, but it's their original quarry they were for hunting that intrigues us you could say," Fortis said, referring to the Mandarin. "He seems to have his hand in many happenings on Earth and beyond, so we should be mindful of anything from him."
"I won't be shocked if it does turn out he and Hades are somehow involved with one another," Veyron replied.
"Indeed, but we won't know for sure until we have proof," Fortis added. "And if the Mandarin is indeed involved, then he'll have our full and undivided attention,"
"How would you obtain proof then?" Shesthaal asked.
"We'll see how he reacts to our presence on Earth. He may not take well to it, and how he responds could tell us a lot…"
A half an hour had passed since Darlton brief Prince Schneizel everything about the fiasco that resulted in Clovis's disappearance. While speaking the truth report was easier than fabricating a cover story, even that was hard for him due to the bizarre nature of what they were fighting. Thankfully, they brought the video footage from their Gloucesters with them, so they could show what they could not easily explain in words.
"And that's the end of what happened," Darlton finished as the last videos were Edgar attacked by the pink-haired girl and her bodyguard and the subsequent salvage operation around the area.
"Unusual circumstances for sure," Schneizel admitted before offering. "But, rest assured, the Camelot Team's report of the incident correlates to everything you told me."
"I am grateful for your understanding," Darlton appreciated. "However, I feel I am asking this on behalf of my sons as well as myself. What happens now, Your Highness?"
"For the time, we keep this to ourselves," Schneizel replied. "I'll see about crafting an alternative report to submit to the Homeland."
"And then?" Darlton asked, feeling there was more to it.
"I'll be returning to Area 11 myself."
"You?" Darlton asked, both shocked and concerned. "But, Your Highness, it's too dangerous."
"Perhaps, but clearly, my presence is needed. If anything, I can help Princess Euphiema better adjust to her new role and maybe even help her towards stabilizing Area 11."
Although it went unsaid, there was a second reason that would bring the Prime Minister of the Empire to Area 11. It was one Schneizel kept to himself as he searched the exposed images of C.C. and details regarding Code R. At the very least, he'll be able to see everything for himself.
On the main continent of Asia, on the other side of the Chinese Federation, was a significant nation that opposed Britannia. It was small and located right on the border of the Militarized Zone of India, which was heavily occupied by Chinese military forces. The Kingdom of Zilkhstan was a unique nation that could only exist because of the ongoing war against Britannia. The majority of the land was desert, so there was little in terms of natural resources. Their country was also not very populated, and the only major city was its capital of Gralbahd, located on the one-thousand-meter-tall cliffs overlooking the ocean. Regardless of the lack of essential needs, the kingdom remained standing with its impressive military might and combat prowess. Soldiers were their sole export, and selling their skills became their only source of funding, daily necessities, and raw materials that it could not produce on its own.
The other pillar that held the country together was their government system that was a crossbreed between a monarchy and theocracy. The soldiers who defended their homeland worshipped the royal family of that region, especially their High Priestess. Even if she was not a commander, her role as a prophet made her vital to the kingdom's success, and not even Britannia was able to overcome them despite multiple invasions.
The royal palace was an island fortress at the center of Gralbahd, surrounded by water and modern buildings. The stone palace extended itself with a bridge that connected it directly to the nearby temple that serves as a holy center for its citizens.
Currently, the High Priestess held up in the royal palace for the night. She was a gorgeous, well-endowed woman with long blonde and cyan eyes. She beautifully decorated herself in jewelry with a gold headdress, earrings, neck brace, bangles, and belt with embedded rubies. Her white priestess robe with cyan lace fabric was stored elsewhere as rested within the hot spring.
"So, your return will be delayed?" Shamna, the Divine, was in a long-distance communication meeting with the expeditionary force she sent to aid Kyrie and Iris. Her two representatives, Swaile Qujappat of her assassin squad and Shesthaal Forgnar of her Elite Guard, occupied the two bottom screens as they gave their report.
"I'm afraid so, Your Highness," Swaile covered his eye as he spoke to the priestess.
"Our client achieved their main objective, but there has been an unexpected development," Shesthaal said while performing the same face cover. "Miss Iris and Miss Curren can give you all the details."
"Care to explain," Shamna looked up to the virtual adjutant, who was on the top-right corner. Iris had a blank screen due to her nature as an A.I., but Curren Hückebein was up on the rafters of the warehouse when she joined the meeting.
"The key to the Eternal Crystal is incredibly deep inside the Book of Darkness," Iris shared a 3D projection of the book. "Unfortunately, our current attempts to access it have failed due to some corrupted and damaged elements along the pathway."
"Can you give a simpler explanation?" the High Priestess asked, not having time to understand everything Iris said.
"It appeared that one of our fights resulted in tearing up the book a bit," Curren replied cheerfully.
"You did this?" Shamna glared.
"A souvenir of what happened a year ago during our fight with the current owner, but what can we do? It was all inevitable."
"Watch it," Shesthaal grew disdain for the callous behavior of the Huckebein leader. "This is the High Priestess you're talking! Know your place in-"
"That's enough, son of Forgnar," Shamna pardoned the woman. "Do not expect them to be familiar with our traditions. Besides, apart from being from another world far beyond our power, there's no point complaining about damage from such a long time ago."
"We understand, Your Highness," Swaile complied with his salute.
The High Priestess's word had two meanings, with everyone only one or the other. The first, which his subordinates understood, was how the damage occurred before the visitors' arrival to Earth. They arrived at Zilkhstan less than six months ago and had no idea about the key's condition until now. The other issue was the fact it had been around twelve hours since the start of the operation. No matter what power she had, it was too late to turn back now.
"Now then," Shamna pressed on with the matter. "When do you expect to return to Zilkhstan with this Eternal Crystal?"
"We anticipated damage to the book since we discovered it, so plans for restoration were already underway," Iris marked all of the damaged systems within the Book of Darkness. She also labeled the total amount of time it would take to complete, which was less than favorable. She also displayed a map of Area 11 and marked signatures around the country. "Repairs will take approximately one week to complete. We will immediately search for the Eternal Crystal afterward. But with all the possible locations, searching time could take another week on average."
"A total of two weeks," the priestess muttered.
"No need to worry," the Hückebein leader toyed around. "We made all the preparations for this sort of event, so no surprises here and there."
"That's enough," Shesthaal silenced her before moving on. "As Miss Curren said, we have already prepared a second rendezvous point in case our current hideout is compromised. Once we obtained our primary objective, we will depart from Area 11 immediately and return to our homeland. As you know, we are also in pursuit of the girls' secondary objective, which may or may affect our current schedule."
Shamna nodded in compliance as she issued her new orders.
"Operation Black Djinn continues as planned. Miss Iris, I want you to proceed with these repairs as quickly as possible. My men will continue to aid you until you have brought the crystal here and begun restoring the land as you and your accomplice promised."
"Roger," Iris said with closed eyes and a grin.
"Now, then, you are dismissed from the meeting."
As Iris disappeared from her screen, the priestess faced her two loyal commanders. She looked away from Curren's amused face as she was not happy about the situation. Well, from what the two Zilkhstani officers noticed, she was not comfortable working with the A.I.
"You don't trust her?" Shesthaal caught her act before covering his face again. "Your Highness?"
"I don't," she confirmed the Elite Guard Captain's suspicions. "She's acting too polite for a girl of her type. She even chose to represent her accomplice, but despite proving their extraterrestrial origins, she doesn't look anywhere near as desperate to save her home planet."
"Do you believe she might turn on us?"
"The A.I. girl, perhaps," Shamna brought her hair back and leaned against the side of the hot spring. "I had my suspicions ever since you brought them along during your mandatory period."
Shamna recalled how Kyrie and Iris first arrived in her country months ago. What they offered was unbelievable at first, but after Iris demonstrated some of her abilities, Shamna became intrigued. If something like Iris was capable of such feats with machines, then Shamna wondered what this crystal could do for her and her country. The only concern that worried the High Priestess was the potential threat of the Time-Space Administration Bureau, which led to them hiring the Hückebein family.
They were a troublesome bunch, but they were effective at what they did.
"Your Highness," Shesthaal spoke while doing the salute again. "Now that we have made our move, Britannia is sure to retaliate. Will you be okay when we return?"
"Do you not put the trust in my prophecies?"
"I believe you're mistaken," Curren corrected her. "Those three girls we stole the Book of Darkness from are part of a much larger organization. You do realize that they'll come after you in full force just for hiring us in nailing their best."
"I also have reason to believe that-"
"I know," Shamna cut off Swaile as she went back to her three contacts. She agreed with her assassin that because they revealed themselves in enemy territory, it will not be just Britannian forces who will invade them. Still, others from another faction they knew quite well. The alien visitors also warned her about the Time-Space Administration Bureau who employed those three girls. It would not be long before they found out who their employer was, and that would spell bad news for Zilkhstan the longer they waited. "We are risking all for this opportunity. I entrust that you will all keep watch and ensure she fulfills the deal they promised. That especially goes for you, Miss Curren."
"Why, of course," the leader of the Hückebein replied with a bubbly glee. "That's why you wanted to be our client instead of those two children."
"If they do anything to go against us, make sure you put them down. We won't hesitate to use the crystal ourselves and fulfill our end of the deal."
The chuckle from Curren was eerie but reassuring. Ever since her suspicions grew, Shamna desired some collateral to ensure Iris and Kyrie kept their end of the deal. As such, she appointed her family as soldiers of Zilkhstan so they would be under her employment as well. Despite that, the other grave concerns, he felt comfortable with her new allies.
"I am grateful for your loyalty, all of you," Shamna complemented her commanders on the screen. "Now then, ensure that this Black Djinn succeeds and secure your loyalty to your High Priestess."
"You got it," Curren acknowledged with a bubbly grin. "One large crystal coming your way."
"Namjala latak," Shesthaal and Swaile said simultaneously.
Once all her three contacts closed, Shamna pressed a button on one of the rocks to close the entire holographic screen. It was more than impressive how many gifts the A.I. girl and her accomplices had given them. Magic was a thing, and the Britannians and other factions managed to make everyday use of it. Even for those who did not use magic initially, the technological feats provided by Iris did more for her kingdom than she expected.
Their technological development had begun accelerating as their Knightmare Frames were catching up and passing those of Britannia's Knightmare Frames. However, no matter how far their technology advanced, their country was still a desert with very few resources, so the crystal's power would be critical for the growth of their nation.
Once we gain the crystal, we can soon become a power to rival the likes of Britannia.
"Is everything okay, Sister?"
Shamna turned to a boy in a green electric wheelchair, who was around the same age as Nunnally. Like Shamna, he had blonde hair but had a red visor above his cyan eyes that lacked pupils. He had a black suit and gold plates with rubies that circled his body like a ring, indicating his royal status.
"I am fine, brother," Shamna replied affectionately to her younger brother Shalio. "The operation is taking longer than expected, but we just obtained something important as the robot girl addressed.
Shamna emerged from the water and did not waste time drying and dressing, which her handmaidens assisted her. Shalio was blind, but his visor allowed him to view the world digitally. Shalio was parked behind a curtain at the entrance to the hot spring, allowing the siblings to speak.
"I am glad, sister, but are you still worried about these aliens we have begun dealing with?" Shalio asked as his wheelchair moved closer to his sister.
"A little, but if we succeed, our country will become something more," Shamna remarked before changing the topic. "And how is the new machine that girl gave you?"
"The Nagid Shu Mane is amazing," Shalio remarked, reminiscing about the new machine he used to repel the Britannians for the past few months. "It's quite different from a Ghedo Vakka or Jarja Vakka. When I pilot it, it is like I can walk and fly freely. The combat abilities well exceed everything the Britannians ever designed."
"Proof that our country will become something much more than it is now," Shamna emerged from the bath now fully clothed and dried to walk alongside her brother.
"I overheard about our men obtaining some kind of book. Is this going to help us in the long run?"
"Yes, but it will take a while before they could find the crystal," Shamna wrapped her arms around Shalio before continuing. "Shalio, even with these new developments, please know that you're the most important person in this kingdom that you will ever realize."
"I understand, sister, and I shall not only take care to return from every battle. I shall do you and our nation proud."
Shamna smiled at her brother's resolve.
"Still, we must prepare for an attack in any event. I trust you have been speaking to General Bolvona Forgnar?"
The siblings began walking down the hall together.
"Yes, sister," Shalio replied with a nod. "Thanks to the innovations those girls gave us, we have begun reinforcing and improving our defenses accordingly."
Although the Britannians fought for this nation for so long, there was no actual value in hold such a barren land. However, Shamna knew the truth; while it provided no material resources, it was of crucial religious significance, especially from the organization where she and her assassin Swaile hailed.
Within the bottom of the palace stood a doorway that connected to a world unknown to everyone else. It was a derivative of the original gateways that scattered across Earth, but they worked just the same.
Although I doubt even the TSAB knows about it, the Emperor and his brother's Order are sure to be after our Aramu Gates.
Within the Kingdom of Zilkhstan, there were only two gates available. One was deep within the Wailing Prison, unwittingly under the care of Bitool, who acted as its warden. The other was within the main temple built within the canyon at their capital, where Shamna would use to enter this surreal world.
Even if the crystal's power is not enough, I still have my Geass, Shamna thought, thinking about the alternatives to her plan in helping her kingdom. The more important lifeline for her was Shalio as she felt the scars over his body, even with his clothes covering them. I have already seen my brother and so many people die for me. I will not let anyone, not even these new alien visitors get in the way of achieving the dreams that I desire.
"Even if we don't get the crystal, our kingdom is already making leaps and bounds in the new technology they have given us," Shalio said, somehow expecting what his sister had been thinking.
"Indeed, brother," Shamna said. "All we can do now is wait and see if they are successful or not."
Later that same day at a military base on Midchilda as a transport vessel was beginning to take off, bound for Earth.
"Hurry it up, Tea! We're going to be late!"
Those words came from an energetic young girl who called out to her friend. She had the same looks as Ginga Nakajima, expect she looked a little younger and dressed like a tomboy with a long white bandana. She had a bare midriff with her light blue shorts and white and blue uniform with red jewels on the sleeves, similar to what Nanoha wore for her Barrier Jacket. She also had black roller skates and a Revolver Knuckle on her right hand.
"You could have woken me up sooner," the girl's accomplice shouted to her. "Hey, slow down, you idiot!"
The other girl had blue-green eyes and long orange pigtails with silver crosses pinned onto black ties. She wore a black shirt underneath a white coat like her partner but also had a brown and silver belt. When she caught her breath, she went down to her knees, covered by long white knee socks with orange stripes and black boots. Furthermore, she carried a handgun in her arms, which was unusual for a TSAB Mage.
Accompanying the pair was Mariel Atenza, who was worried about how young the reinforcements being sent to Earth was.
"What could the higher-ups be thinking?" Mariel commented. "Sending children to Earth, especially with everything happening there?"
But she knew it was just a sign of how dire the situation for the TSAB was with how much the threat of the Mandarin has stretched their forces thin. She could only hope for the best from these recruits…and, above all, hope to avert the worst that could happen.
A/N: So, at a ripe twelve years old, Subaru and Teana are being sent to Earth. You can bet Ginga isn't going to be happy about that, but Nanoha and Fate were younger at the start of their careers, so maybe it will work out.
Everyone has now stated how they will respond, and can Kyrie and her crew stay hidden until they can extract the Key from the Book of Darkness.
Anyway, further problems with the TSAB are becoming more evident. Especially now that they have been stretched to their limits from the sound of things.
I got something planned for the next chapter, so stay tuned.
Thanks in advance for the reviews and the feedback.