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Yūma caught the marching orders that A-188 had issued to it by Agent Murakami, and his efforts at keeping the resurrecting flanking gunners down seemed effective. The plan was simple and to the point, follow A-188's path into the heart of the mansion and put an end to this unending tide of relics of the past. Suited him fine, the novelty of fighting ooze made specters of the past had begun to wear thin, especially since beyond one interesting threat, it had all been fairly rank and file troops. After putting down several more gunners, a wall of murky, brackish water, providing both barrier against attacks and further openings to exploit. Yūma took up a rearguard position now, keeping himself between harrying attacks and the like towards those more vulnerable to direct offensive actions, commenting offhand in response to a request to being carried.

"All hands seem already full I'm afraid, even A-188 and their abundance of legs."

Moving deftly backwards, which helped keep the more sluggish moving at a brisk pace, Yūma did a quick ammo check while reloading. Running low, not ideal, made things interesting again at least. He had brought enough ammunition for skirmishing, not full blown combat, and thinking back he kind of wished he had brought his heavier duty combat armor, it had more room for ammo and protection and was better suited for handling proper weapons in close quarters. But if he could look at the future and prepare accordingly life would be far different, and a damn sight more boring, so he refocused himself, keeping any Ashigaru at bay with a combination of pistol fire and close quarters strikes, refusing to let himself get drawn off at any given time. Unlike A-188, he didn't have the luxury of being able to shift into a new form and take out an army on his own. He would need significantly heavier firepower to take out an entire army on his own, and a lot more time to plan.

"Bringing up the rear, keeping hostiles at bay."

@Rune_Alchemist@Izurich@VitaVitaAR@Raineh Daze@OwO
A-188 had support in the form of Numako, and that suited Yūma just fine then. As long as none of them stood alone, they would be in far better shape than not. Obvious thoughts aside, it seemed that the continued, combined efforts and shifting tactics had forced the Ashigaru on the backfoot again, the return of A-188 and Numako being very helpful for the cohesion of their assault. The problem was they were not making good headway, and unlike the others, his ammo supplies would be exhausted eventually. A-188 slammed into the Ashigaru while Agent Murakami tapped further into the pyrokinetics and bladeplay to smash the ranks further. Yūma kept in the center of the ad-hoc formation that had formed, pacing his shots more carefully, saving them to either prevent unseen attacks, or keep ashigaru gunners from employing their methods. The black puddles reforming into enemies, the ones that had not fled into the dark, was just plain unsporting. It did at least make the fight interesting again, since the anomalies bullying ashigaru would get old eventually.

The sudden surge of incense, smoke, and ash coming down announced that Agent Mae had, in fact, doubled down on the use of incense. That should turn the attempts by the ashigaru to surround them on its head, given the sudden falling cloud of the material. Agent Mae's announcement was very much in line with his own ammunition supply situation, he could only keep shooting for so long before he ran out of bullets. Punching ashigaru back into the black goo they came from was fun, but compared to the speed of elimination that the anomalous could provide? A waste of time if he had better options at hand, as much fun as it would be to get stuck in again. Glancing back to evaluate, Yūma spotted the arquebus ashigaru reform and begin to take aim, he barked a warning as he opened fire to interrupt it.

"Gunner behind!"

Yūma put several shots into the ashigaru, aiming to prevent it getting its shot off before shifting his stance again. Slipping a brass knuckle onto his left hand, he prepared to engage in close quarters shooting against any of the ashigaru that advanced on either himself or the incense wielding Mae, while hopefully conserving ammunition in the process. Agent Murakami, A-188, and Numako had proven that being surrounded only improved their lethality, and they were not exactly in need of as focused defense. Given the sudden ability of the ashigaru to form from their remains, someone had to keep their head on a swivel to watch for gunners materializing out of the woodwork, and Yūma took up that position while continuing to cover the anomalies and agents present.

@Rune_Alchemist@Izurich@VitaVitaAR@Raineh Daze@OwO
Lady Silenna.

That was the name Rolan had been given after asking around (and clarifying he wasn't looking for a cooking instructor, which had led to some disappointment) as well as a direction to head. Back to Talderia, he would be able to find her there. A woman of gold hair, golden eyes, and enough skill in alchemy to be considered a master in her craft already. Suited him fine, anything to give him an edge in the coming days. The other knights were training, he had seen them working while trying to find enough information to go on, honing conventional fighting skills and capabilities. Following that route would be chasing after the others, he wouldn't catch up in martial prowess anytime soon, especially with them lengthening their strides as well. He made sure that word was left for the Captain once she finished training or had time to review progress that he was heading back to Talderia, to find additional training there.

Rolan moved with a sense of purpose, and asking around he realized how much of a needle in a haystack situation he had going on here. Yes, he had a name and a general description, but that didn't mean a lot to most of the people he spoke with. He spent more time than he would have cared to simply trying to find anyone who knew the name at all, and even then it took some doing to convince them he was just looking to learn, and narrow down where he was going. After that, he was able to start getting better answers, even more so once he started getting closer to where Lady Silenna was staying. Before long he was approaching the abode where he was told he could find the woman, and approaching the door he raised his hand up and gave the door two short, firm knocks. Hopefully tracking down this woman would be the hard part, and she would be willing to help...
"A-188 is getting split off!"

Yūma barked out the warning to the other agents present with the frontal assault team, a weaving step evading another spear thrust, using his momentum to move into his reach to slam a brass knuckle upwards, sending another one of the ghost ashigaru down for the count. With the core of the assault drawn away, the flanking action had turned into an isolated attack. Switching back to his pistol, the former officer moved to regroup with Agent Murakami, supporting her with his service pistol to keep her flanks clear. He knew better than to stand alone and continue pressing the, albeit far more appealing, brawling advance. Divided they would get torn apart, no matter how good they were individually. The blackpowder wielders were getting smart, which meant he had to focus more on countering their incoming fire, moving erratically between what concealment and cover he could find, pacing shots between them.

"Whatever you did, Agent Mae, keep it up, I'll provide cover."

Yūma had positioned himself in a spot that could keep a broad eye on everything occurring. A-188 was beyond his ability to reach currently, not with the combination of gun wielding Ashigaru and the sword forces engaging to keep the frontline from falling apart completely. Agent Mae's efforts had not gone unnoticed, the remains being driven away and seemingly reacting poorly to the incense sticks being thrown. His current efforts were focused on preventing any of the phantom ashigaru from either flanking the remaining agents, or firing on them from covered positions. He couldn't afford the luxury of conserving ammunition with A-188 being lured off the war path, and if he could prevent an allied agent from getting hit, all the better.
Rolan had hit a rather frustrating, and in retrospect obvious, roadblock after some time spent drilling his technique. Quite simply put, he had reached the mechanical limit on the speed he could span his crossbow. Short of significant modifications, there was only so fast he could fire a shot, lower the crossbow and brace it while fetching his wippe lever, draw the string back, stow the lever, load a bolt, all to take aim and fire again. While he could hold the shot far longer than any archer could, he would never match the speed without some significant leaps forward on his crossbow's design. Something to consider, certainly, but no amount of skill or training would fix it. He was wasting his time, essentially, beyond breaking the habit of tracking shots to their mark before beginning the process of making ready for his next shot. Which meant changing his approach to training, which meant considering where he was deficient, and that was something he thought on while getting everything packed back up to return to the training yard.

Rolan always prided himself on accuracy, something he could claim to have been refining from the moment he was handed the crossbow, but that hit a limit, and just not improving wasn't an option. He had originally hoped there was more room to improve in speed, but he had underestimated how fast he was already moving, or perhaps how little room there was to improve. His technique wasn't going to change much more, so that left adding more tools to his options. Which left him with very few options, at least among those that he could come up with. Of course everyone heard stories of archers firing multiple arrows, sending arrows curving around barricades or deflecting off one target to hit a true foe, but not only would Rolan not know where to begin, he doubted how much of that was compatible with his preferred fighting style.

Why not intensify his efforts in alchemy? Rolan paused as the thought crossed his mind. Sure, officially poisons and the like were frowned upon, if he was caught doing it, but nothing said he couldn't look for more overt combinations. With the amount of talent available to the Iron Roses, surely an alchemist could be found that he could train under. Hopefully they would not mind a more offensively focused preference, since as far as poisons went he had to mostly rely on paralyzing mixtures rather than lethal ones. But perhaps he could find recipes and mixtures that mimicked what those magically gifted could do, or at least a fraction of it. Or perhaps instead of relying on catching up, he could do things they couldn't. Having made mistakes learning reminded him of blinding mixtures of stinging fumes that had gotten him stern lectures, but perhaps weaponizing that was an option too. Either way, that meant finding an alchemist.

Moving back towards Candaeln with a sense of purpose again, Rolan would begin asking around for where he could find a skilled alchemist to learn from. He made no secret of his focus on improving his capabilities of employing alchemy in combat, ideally to augment his current capabilities. Whoever that turned out to be, well, remained to be seen but first things first was finding out who that was and tracking them down.
Yūma noted the Ashigaru were quick to come apart, yari wall not exactly holding up to the combined assault of anomaly, firepower, and the sheer force brought to bear against them. A-188 seemed hellbent to continue its rampage as it went barreling forward, another volley of arquebus fire opening up clearly as, unsurprisingly, the hail didn't do more than annoy the anomaly as it continued bearing down on the center of the ashigaru spirits. Ejecting the spent magazine into his hand, leaving one round chambered as he moved forward and swapped one of the full magazines in his pouches with the empty, he loaded and moved in rapidly after A-188, continuing to flank along to the left of the 'friendly' anomaly. A quick analysis of the situation wasn't ideal but there were far worse odds out there, after all the hostile Ashigaru still had to relaod.

"Rolling up their left flank, keeping A-188's left clear!"

Yūma opened fire again, though rather than hanging back and picking off targets of opportunity around A-188, he was advancing on the Ashigaru who were reloading, firing on the ones furthest away to bring them down. The more that were interrupted from ever getting another shot off, the better off they would be. He had brought plenty of ammo, of course, but didn't want to burn through so much of it so soon, and once he had spent his second magazine he made a fast swap, a grin on his face as the familiar, initially cold feeling of metal on his hands as he holstered his pistol and swapped to the brass knuckles in one smooth, practiced motion. He had picked off the shooters out of immediate melee reach, and now he was close enough to charge before the closest to him could finish reloading. The flashlight was tucked into its carry loop as well, still casting light but from a lower angle now, and one that moved with Yūma's body instead of where he pointed it.

The former officer's fighting style in melee became quickly apparent as the first he engaged tried to smash him in the side of the head with the blackpowder gun, a low swaying duck carried a heavy body shot, knuckles buckling the old armor and expending the momentum built by the dodge. Each evasion was transferred into a strike, wasting as little energy as possible as he started brawling through the ranks not immediately in melee reach of A-188 on the left. He lived for this moment, when he could justify getting stuck into a melee and start throwing punches. True to his call out, Yūma would keep fighting through the left flank, using the melee positioning to keep himself out of the immediate line of fire now that he was engaged in the melee. He could always reload later and take up an overwatch position again, for now, it was time to get some good old fashioned work in, one of the oldest ways still in use by humanity, two fists and building momentum.
Damnation. If no one stayed dead, then the Roses would have to, realistically, best all obstacles to their escape in one outing, which put out the chance of wearing down the opposition nearly as much. Doubly so considering the capabilities of those who would be barring their progress. That also made the thought of more underhanded efforts...quite unhelpful, given the way such actions would no doubt sour the outlook of those present on the Roses, even by association alone. From the sounds of things, however, they were the first to have any real option beyond sort of idle about, and simply be. A shadow, strange given there were no clouds, distracted Rolan as his instincts started tracking for a threat, even in this apparently safe city. The shadow again, and a red-gold dragon of all damn things came crashing down.

Rolan shifted backwards, arm moving under his cloak towards his knife, which in the face of a dragon was quite the comedic thing to consider. The lack of arms, shouting, or the like quickly indicated that this one was not hostile, though Rolan shifted his stance back to a more relaxed one his arm remained under his cloak for the time being, out of habit now rather than anything else. He had gone from dealing with would be rebels, bandits and the like to legends and dragons in far too quick a span for his tastes. Let alone everything that had happened while he was on longer ranging taskings, he had frankly quite little time to effectively process anything. The uncomfortable warmth of dragon's breath and casual insult aside, Rolan took the chance to analyze as much of the dragon as he could. Weak points, old wounds, anything. Initial thoughts of 'go for the eyes, use as potent a toxin he could brew, and pray' were not exactly something he wanted to plan for.

They were going to leave, that much was certain. Legends, skilled warbands, dragons, all of them be damned. He had little else of value to add, and sure enough they were on the way back to Candaeln with a lot to think about.




Rolan had been almost silent on the march back, continuing to process everything going on. Fighting notoriously skilled warbands, still unknown trials, hunting down and slaying a dragon. All for the purposes of 'training' for whatever nebulous real world consequences remained waiting for them once they finished training in this rather peculiar manner. Part of him wondered if the other knights thought of any of this as sheer madness as he did, but he wasn't going to risk asking and potentially find himself to be the odd one out in the matter. No, that line of questioning would do nothing of value, right now he had to think on how he would improve to the point of being able to assist in slaying a dragon. The rest would fall in place, or would be something to improvise along the way. There was a lot he needed to do to even begin catching up, let alone competing, with the other knights usefulness. Upon returning to Candaeln, he would remark to those who he had visited the city with.

"Now that we have two thirds of our impossible tasks in mind, I have a lot to do to prepare. Whoever sees the Captain should let her know what we learned, now if you'll excuse me..."

Rolan excused himself from the returning members of the Roses to head to the training yard. Part of him had wanted to begin digging through the library for what natural reagents he could track down that would prove poisonous enough to significantly impact a dragon, but decided against it in the end. Preparing for problems was good, but he couldn't be certain foresight would always be available. Sure, knowing a dragon waits at the end of all this mess was one thing, that didn't mean he could always assume he would need something capable of slowing an overgrown lizard. Ideally killing it, but again, defeated the purpose of this little training exercise. No, they had to get better, and while tempting, Rolan suspected he was never going to compete with the others in terms of melee. He was good with a knife, and getting in close worked well most of the time, but it wasn't his forte. No, that was with his crossbow, which was why he was in the training yard long enough to gather up a number of targets.

He wasn't going to practice here, firing from one end of the yard to the other wouldn't do anything except pass time. He would find a patch of long, open ground outside Candaeln, though not out of sight of it, to set up a long range set of targets. From here, Rolan began drilling himself, and hit the first issue. It wasn't accuracy that was the problem, even when considering even the slightest deviation from his chosen marks as failures, it was the fact he wasn't putting more of the accurate shots down range. For a crossbow it was quick, sure, but compared to a proper archer with a bow, he was sluggish at best. Scowling, Rolan considered the problem, as he collected his bolts, a more involved process given the stretched out range he was deliberately operating at. Two problems came to mind, when it came to the speed of his shots, since he was confident in his accuracy.

One, and the one he had little recourse to resolve at the moment, was the inherent nature of a crossbow. It took time to prepare the lever, draw the string back, secure the lever and load the bolt. Assuming he worked up the raw strength to simply wrench the string back bare handed, which eliminated several steps, he could only work so fast. Second, was his method of shooting. He followed shots in before loading and making the next ready. Good for marksmanship, especially for the less accurate, but even under duress he was confident in his accuracy. He could hit his marks, though the memories of the gauntlet of enemies in the last dream sequence came to mind. Faster loading, not wasting precious moments watching his shots hit and deflect, might have given him more time to load and make that difficult shot. The eye slits of armor, joints exposed for moments as a weapon is raised or shield moved aside to facilitate an attack. The throat of a dragon as it reared back to attack, perhaps.

Muttering inaudibly to himself, Rolan walked back with a full quiver, and turned and took stock again. During the next drill, rather than watch his shots, he forced himself to begin preparing the next, not waiting to see where his shot ended up, instead focusing on volume of fire. He was mentally timing himself, and emptying his supply of bolts again he went to take stock of his shots. Still accurate, not as much as when he shot how he had always trained, but it hadn't taken as long as before. Not a significant improvement, something that would take long term practice to show significant change and improvement. First was improving how much time he had to work with between shots, then he could start getting trickier with what he did. A strong foundation first, or else everything above would collapse.
Kilian





Kilian had not been in the country nearly as long as he would have liked. Granted, a part of him would rather not have bothered with this entire song and dance but the call of the command seal was not lightly ignored. If it was a proper, old Grail War, the clamor would have been even more obvious, more driven, far more political maneuvering between those who wanted power and those who, by the seemingly fickle nature of the Grail, were selected to stand as Masters for the conflict. Master, a humble title in the face of it, but one that held a dangerous mixture of independent action and intense self concern. Coupled with the seemingly random nature of selecting a Master of the War in normal circumstances, well, it made predicting and planning dangerous. Of course, this was no ordinary Grail War, oh no, that would have made things too, well, easy wasn't the word. Predictable, maybe, but almost nothing about this could be considered predictable.

The man mused to himself as he prepared his safehouse, at least one would assume it was a safehouse. The exact location was not pertinent for now, rather it was a rather modest, utterly unassuming looking rental property, one that had no idea to what was about to be hosted in Sako City. Kilian was dutifully reinforcing the location's warding and magical defenses, runes being employed to apply far more permanent, far less immediately noticeable effects. Each Rune hidden out of physical sight, ready to spring alive at a moment's provocation. In reality, if one were to breach the defenses and reach the innermost sanctum, by virtue of escalating defenses, they would be surprised at what they would find no doubt. But that was for an eventual deliberation, as of right now Kilian had done all he could to the property to prepare. For now, it was the waiting game for the War itself to start proper.

Thus far everyone seemed to be playing by the old rules, something that suited Kilian fine for now. Play the game, follow the motions, watch and see if this contest was worth betting it all on. He had no promises, no certainty that this Faux Grail War would provide anything close to what he desired. His own Wish should this prove fruitful was, by many metrics, rather mundane and theoretically attainable without this whole contest. All the more reason to not play too risky, too desperate when this many pieces remained on the board, to use a boardgame analog. Of course, the Masters were only half the puzzle, as he was reminded of rather clearly when he happened to have summoned a most curious Archer indeed.

Archer, a man who, upon initial interactions, proved to be the kind of amicable Kilian was. Initial discussions had proven pleasant enough, by all accounts, and Kilian had agreed to give the Servant leave to learn the lay of the City, observe the other pairings of Master and Servants where possible, but do not engage yet if at all possible. It was too soon to strike, not when it was unclear whether or not alliances could be struck until the more powerful, more isolated duos could be removed from the board of play. He had no considerations that Archer, alone, could handle an entire Grail War on his own. But only a fool assumed that, even in a contest where there is only one victor, that the other players could not be useful in the moment, when greater threats abounded. As such, Kilian knew it was wise to depart for the Church, to formally announce his presence, and see which other Masters decided to play by the same rules. In the same bond that the other masters shared with their servants, Kilian would inform Archer of his plans.

<"Archer, I will be departing for the Church to speak with the Overseer, and get a measure of how the other Masters might play the game. Do let me know if anything interesting comes up before things begin proper.">




Assassin





"Fuck's sake, Jekyll, why are we tottering around this worthless foreign city like a homeless lacky?"

Assassin calmly walked the tourist centric parts of Sako City, humming gently to himself as he walked idly about, at least idly at first glances. He was getting a lay of this, despite his lesser half's complaints, lovely city of Sako. Knowing the layout, how things moved, how the city felt at its most basic level would show him how to maneuver safely out of sight, out of mind, even more so than he already did. It also, amusingly, distracted Hyde quite easily, too focused on complaining about being in some 'shitty foreign city', as he refused to repeat the more crass words of his lesser half. Intelligence gathering and sight seeing were easily mixed into one, and he was practically ignored even by the regular denizens of the city, flittering about on their daily lives, and even those of more import, of more consequence.

Of more consequence... Assassin found that being summoned to a contest of War, of conflict and violence, for the sake of the Holy Grail itself quite peculiar. Jekyll knew the Arthurian legends and mythos that, eventually, surrounded the Grail itself. Then, the Holy Grail, as more Christian influence bled into the Arthurian belief. Or, so his well read outlook had been prior to his eventual demise at the hands of increasingly involuntary transformations. Or so his memory was, at any rate, he had passed when he had no more control. What happened afterword, apparently, left him a candidate of being summoned as Heroic Spirit, though the idea of an Assassin being Heroic was amusingly odd indeed. He had an innate understanding of his capabilities, of...Hyde's capabilities. As much as he was loathe to admit it, and as much as Hyde was to gloat, they needed his lesser half. But Hyde alone could not accomplish this, as Jekyll was quick to remind. He was too impulsive, too eager to shed blood and engage in the base vulgarities that he had been created to satisfy to begin with, things that a gentleman like Jekyll could never submit to.

"Be silent Hyde, if you would for once. You will have your cruel pleasures before long, I fear, on foes more than your equal, and quite certainly your better. We are Servant first, we answer to our Master before anything else."

The Master that summoned them, a curious but well mannered woman of Far Eastern descent. On the surface of it, quite well mannered and reserved, qualities any woman could strive for. But Jekyll thought he recognized something behind the urbane, something that struck too close to home, but he spoke not on the matter. If it came up, he would council her to the best of his humble abilities. Especially given Hyde was going to be of no help what so ever in the regard. Fortunately, all the trappings of utterly calm, ordinary city life had left the lesser half so bored to tears that he couldn't be bothered to act up for now. A small relief, though the twinge of disdain at the thought reminded them both that, even in their thoughts, the out of power half still listened, and was around. The Master herself reached out, through an intrinsic link shared between the two during the duration of this Grail War, and answered in a tone both pleasant and kind, the natural way of Jekyll and a clear indication he retained a steady hand of control for the moment.

<"As you wish Master, you will be first to know if anything of note arises. A shame to depart such a lovely district so soon, but alas.">

Assassin would gently alter his path, diverting off the main path through Sako he had been wandering on, aiming towards the route to the Church. He would play the role of a sight seeing tourist, his innate properties as an Assassin and as Jekyll making that ever easier, keeping a careful, discreet eye on the path of the Church, seeming to meander back and forth, moving towards the Church in a measured manner. Hyde's displeasure was a near constant presence in the back of Jekyll's mind currently, but the presence of so much soothing, calming energy that such a place would bring, well, was a tonic against the madness, temporary as it was. Ensuring the route was safe for his Master, he would await her arrival and report anything unusual that might appear along the way at such a time.
Yūma accepted a trinket from the rather brusque healer Mae, though he didn't particularly begrudge the demeanor. Not everyone enjoyed their work, and given the visibly metallic arm, odds were she had not lived an easy life up until now. The former officer didn't bother mentioning or bringing up the good luck charm probably wouldn't do much for him in particular, given most things just sort of deflected when it came to anything unnatural or abnormal, but he wouldn't snub the woman either. He made a pleasant off hand comment as he accepted the trinket, tucking it into a spare pocket on his vest for safe keeping.

"Well when you put it like that, I'll do my best to keep my insides where they belong then, shall I? Thanks for the freebie though, can't complain about that."

Focused as the front team formed and walked onto the premises, Yūma was scanning the ruined front of the manor. The mission being announced to start got a brisk nod from the man, flashlight trained on the manor as they encroached on the property, service pistol at a low ready. They would have to be damn careful about moving about this place, the rotted through floors would no doubt prove hazardous to them if they didn't make sure the ground was relatively sound to traverse. Getting split up would be not ideal, assuming plunging into a basement didn't end up like Victim A from the brief. A glint in the flashlight's beam across the roof caught his eye, but before he could bark out a warning, an....arquebus opened up? The shot would have killed anyone else, but the general response of A-188 was not pleased. It sorted out the gunner on the roof, and then leaped into the ranks of the advancing, spear wielding soldier spirits. Ashigaru, if he remembered his history lessons, but that was not relevant right now.

Agent Murakami was next to engage, bringing that massive blade around like it was nothing, smashing into the ranks of the advancing yari wielding phantoms. They seemed to come apart as easily to trauma as anything else did, so Yūma was the next to engage. Rather than advance into melee, however, as much as he loved the idea of evading thrusting attacks to get in close and pummel the enemies to death, the presence of one firearm wielding phantom threatened more, which meant keeping overwatch. Shifting to the left to engage the flank of the ashigaru, hopefully held in place by the aggression of his fellow agents, Yūma took steady aim and opened fire.

Compared to the single, resounding crack of the old blackpowder weapon the ashigaru spirit above had wielded, the service pistol barked in a series of paced, back to back rapid shots. Putting shots into the ashigaru spirits that had yet to be destroyed, his pace ensuring he didn't risk hitting anyone who had moved into melee, he was keeping an eye out for more arquebus wielding spirits. Blackpowder, in this day and age? What a time to be alive! The question remained what animated and bound the spirits to this manor of all places, but that was for later. Purging the immediate threats was for now.
Yūma was about to reply and leave the decision up to Agent Murakami when, abruptly, AMATERASU made the call alongside his duty phone buzzing in his pocket. Well that was a relief, at least he wasn't going to be bored to tears today, and he fell in behind Murakami as the duo began heading to report for whatever operation had reared its head. Following along as he did, it didn't take long to reach the briefing room and find Director Murata and a projected AMATERASU. He always found some amusement in the naming of the branch AI. With all the supernatural and anomalous activity in the world, naming a branch AI as such felt a bit on the nose. But who was he to judge, given his occupation? Getting comfortable in one of the seats, with a good angle on both the main screen and personal terminal. The gathered agents were a varied bunch, certainly, keeping a loose eye on them as they trickled in before the briefing began in proper.

The story told was, as much as Yūma was loath to admit, not an uncommon one at first. Some ghost seeker looking to snag some pictures falling to their death in a dilapidated building. On its own, nothing suspicious, so it didn't surprise him that it had been ruled an accident despite the obvious that they wouldn't be briefing if it was just a mundane accident. What ruined that was the rather brutish deaths of Victims B and C. B had his head mulched, probably in one heavy blow. If it wasn't for C's clean, edged weapon injury, Yūma might have suspected some sort of brute force anomaly. Given the mixed damage, Yūma was thinking either a possessed victim, something akin to A-231 during a possession event, or some sort of anomalous weapon. After a few more moments of observation the image cut back to the overview of the ruined manor and marching orders were given.

Putting agents on perimeter duty seemed odd, at least to Yūma, was there no AERT assets available to perform that kind of first response? Perhaps they had already arrived and done the initial securing and calling in of Sefirot, and the Agents would take over. He knew Kawahara would be unhappy with being relegated to standing by and keeping anyone nosy from poking around. Hell, he knew that feeling all too well, reminded of many a day standing guard while agents moved in to secure or eliminate an anomaly. He could at least sympathize there, though her partner seemed to be far less concerned with the relegation to guard duty. Odd pairing, that, but who was he to judge? He was with Murakami and Yamamizu on the front door. Murakami was a better known quality, and Yamamizu less so, but no one made it to their level without being able to back it up. Made sense to him to be tasked to the front door, given his nature, so he had no complaints there.

Besides the question on why so many agents, Yūma had nothing to add. They would skip the trip there with some magic portals, and just like that it would be time to engage. Anomaly support would be with them as well, which would probably help. A-188, the shapeshifting sentient meat, useful since the lack of obvious organs would make a sudden, incapacitating blow ineffective. Still felt odd working with an anomaly, even now, but he wouldn't go complaining about the extra muscle. Once dismissed, Yūma would depart to suit up and get ready for an investigation and elimination of the anomaly.




The time spent getting A-188 ready was not wasted, not by Yūma at least. Suiting up in his patrol attire, the lack of information and need to investigate causing him to decide against the heavy duty AERT response gear he had brought with him to Sefirot, he had decided that there was no need to augment his usual equipment with any additions from the armory. Keep it light and familiar, and he wouldn't have to worry about juggling excess that might get him in a bind. He would still end up spending time waiting for everyone to be prepared, feeling that creeping, familiar sensation of impatience whenever he knew he was about to go into a dangerous situation and finally get to live a little. Soon enough though, they utilized Agent Yakumo's gates to arrive on the scene.

Night was falling, and Yūma produced a heavy, sturdy flashlight from his belt, double checking the batteries. It was a powerful light, and more importantly, heavy and well built enough to use as a bludgeon in a pinch. He drew his sidearm, chambering a round and ensuring the safety was on for the moment. Compared to all the spiritual, magical powers and anomalous properties, a service pistol was hardly the most awe inspiring sight. That being said, it was remarkable how many things didn't take well to being shot, even anomalies were rarely completely bullet proof. Bullet resistant, sure, but it would suffice for now. Kawahara's complaining and the rebuttal from both Otsuka and Murakami got a snort out of Yūma, holstering his pistol and giving her a friendly pat on the shoulder as he passed.

"We've all been on guard duty before, you'll be part of an entry team before you know it. Keep a sharp eye out for us, never know when someone is going to be too nosy for their own good, yeah?"

Yūma would give the two agents on guard duty a nod before positioning himself to provide support to the lead elements of the entry team. A-188 seemed determined to take point, and the former officer wouldn't argue with that. Odds are he would be supporting A-188 and Murakami as they took point, and he would be falling in the middle of the group, with Yamamizu bringing up the rear. He didn't need magic or anomalies to provide ranged support, after all, and that would make eventually swapping to his brass knuckles that much more fun when the time came. For now, he would be providing light with his flashlight, and once on the property he would draw his pistol once more, ready to act on a moment's notice, settling into a professional stance, keeping the pistol at a low ready.

"Right, heads on swivels, let's get this mess sorted out before anyone else gets gutted."
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