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Jason Liu

Despite the words of Kiara (their Kiara, of course), Jason still found himself hesitating to agree with their decision to protect him. As far as things went, the situation was terrible; if anything, the ones that were protecting him should've been the ones to be guarded instead! Hakuno's presence was the one sustaining the sole Servant within the confines of the boundary, and given the other Kiara's own monologues, if theirs fell, then things would likely escalate beyond repair.

So why was it, then, that they placed so much weight into letting a useless person who ran as a distraction for their enemy and let a close friend die in such a horrible manner stay alive?

"I..." he faltered, hesitating as he watched Hakuno throw the box that she had managed to procure from her Servant at the enemy, unable to come up with words to respond in kind to those words of encouragement forced through gritted teeth.

The box itself was, of course, completely unexpected by the other Kiara, but not enough so as to completely stop her forward assault, and with a casual swatting motion, she had struck the object out of the air. What was inside, however—a bunch of sparrows, dressed up like various youkai—flooded out as soon as her hand met it. The birds began to peck at her from all sides, causing Kiara to momentarily pause her attacks towards her counterpart in order to deal with them. With her concentration momentarily struck, though, there was more than enough time for the other party to begin mounting a counterattack.

It didn't take long after for her to finally swat them out of the air, though, and with her counterpart already reeling from her last string of attacks, all she needed to do was reach out and grab her, if even but for a moment——!

Jason Liu

The other Kiara—the one currently on the offensive—sighed with a bit of disappointment at the one beside Hakuno and Jason immediately moving in response to defend the group. The way that her attacks were being warded off were by no means unfamiliar to her—obviously so, given her own ability to use such things—but they were only delaying the inevitable. With the smaller Saber locked away for just long enough for her to press the attack, and no other possible ways for anyone to easily interfere...

Ah, it was almost too perfect a scenario for her!

"Surrender? Please, my dearest Hakuno," she began, licking her lips as she continued to batter away at her counterpart's defenses as she walked closer to the girl. "Once I have finished up here, there will be nothing that would be able to stop me—not here, nor anywhere else. Ah, of course, I shall make sure that you will see things my way soon enough. It shall not be so much as but a moment of pleasure, but..."

With a calm smile, almost as if she was looking at nothing more than a child throwing a tantrum, Kiara continued moving forward, her arm extended towards them as she glanced towards the only "eyesore" left—the young man who had, until now, been unable to utter a single word.

"Ah, but that little insect really does need to go. I wonder how I should take you apart, hm? Maybe... Ah, yes, you seemed rather close with that girl; maybe you would like to follow in her footsteps, hm?"

At that provocation, Jason couldn't help but bite his lower lip, angry at his own inability to retort, before taking a deep breath and turning towards the two that were with him.

"...She's right, you know. Maybe if you weren't here protecting me, you'd be able to do a bit more. That... If I get injured or something, just leave me for dead or something. One less thing to worry about means that much more effort you can put towards beating her. A useless person like me won't be able to provide much, anyways."


Alter Ego — Meltryllis

Despite her own insistence otherwise, Nanako still decided that she had to place her own assertions forward in front of her Servant. As much as seeing her act like a little puppy that felt like it was proud of what it did amused Meltryllis, though, the fact that she had completely ignored her own statement... Really, it annoyed her to no end!

"Yes, yes, I'm perfectly fine, and you did a great job," she remarked sarcastically, staring at the bolt that had still yet to be dislodged from her Master's shoulder. "Should we go get you some ice cream? A pat on the head? Or, maybe, and just listen here for a moment—we stop you from dying in the middle of the street, okay? Honestly, this is why I hate dealing with humans; so self-righteous about the smallest of things..."

Her concern at this point, though laced with thorns, was still comparatively evident. She wasn't so blind so as to ignore what Nanako had done for her, but she worked as an anchor for her existence even so. Having her die would be one of the worst things that could happen, and here she was, caring more about her familiar than the blood streaming down her arm.

Caster — Leonardo da Vinci

At HECATE's delivery of the (admittedly rather worrisome) news, Da Vinci furrowed her brows before glancing at the others present with her. As far as things went, they were by no means in any situation to intervene in the current situation; doubly so, given their distance from the actual region in question. As far as things went, concern was just as important as keeping a level head at times like these.

"Hmm... It is likely that the two incidents may be related to one another," she began, nodding towards her Master before crossing her arms, "but it's not like we can add anything to the effort as of right now. The Einzbern over here has the right idea; we should do what we can, with the knowledge that we can obtain."

With a brief nod towards the two, the Caster turned back towards the AI construct and smiled.

"That being said, if there's anything we can do to help, I'd be happy to do what I can—provided my Master decides that to be doable. We could do with some information on the Servants that fit our criteria in exchange, of course; two birds with one stone, no?"

Of course, if the others wanted to take another course of action, she would by no means oppose it... But if it meant the ability to look into the problem from a different angle and examine the situation from one of the most secure locales in Fusang, then the Caster would gladly take the chance to do so.

@DocRock@Raineh Daze
Jason Liu

Once the group had regrouped with Benienma, breaking through the (somewhat haphazard) blockades set up by those that the other Kiara was controlling was not any particularly large hurdle to overcome. It was as the Caster that had moved to handle the earlier blockade had said; this region of the hospital was notably less populated. Whether that was because of the efforts of other Servants and their Masters here or otherwise remained to be seen, but leaving proved to be no more a challenge than handling the stray few patients that had occasionally lurched at them out of rooms like zombies from a horror game.

Once the group had finally made their way out of the building proper, though, the trail that the other Kiara was distinct enough for both the Saber and the nun to be able to trace its path. Given the lack of other options to take, though, prompt action was all but a given, and the group (Jason included) quickly moved to give chase.

The destination that the other Kiara had led them to, it seemed, were the Fusang Gardens. A large public park dedicated for public use, the otherwise lush greenery that lined the area was now devoid of the usual guests. Be it because of the earlier message that Hakuno had received or... Other reasons, there was no reason to fear anyone else getting caught up in what was to come.

Up on a hill near the center of the area, though, sat the 'other' Kiara, an inviting grin on her face as she watched the group approach. Before the Saber could make any attempts to push through and attack, though, a magic sigil seemed to appear at her feet, and a barrier seemed to form around her, isolating her from the others. Soon after, a larger barrier seemed to be erected around the entirety of the park, enclosing those present with their target.

"Ah... I thought it would take you a little longer to arrive," the other Kiara said, licking her lips as she slowly approached the three humans who had given chase after her. "I had a multitude of traps set for that little sparrow, but... Well, it seems that this shall do for now."

After spending a long time—uncomfortably so, in fact—staring at Hakuno, that Kiara turned towards her other self and smiled.

"Ah, but dear Kishinami can wait for now. For now, I need you to complete myself; so, please, won't you become one with me?"

With that, Kiara extended her left hand in front of herself, which itself was soon followed with a bunch of hands clawing out from underneath the grass and dirt as they aimed to drag Kiara to herself.


Alter Ego — Meltryllis

Without missing a single beat, Meltryllis somersaulted into the air before launching a wave of energy back at the shadow that stood between her and her peace. The two clashed, and in the instant that they had, the Alter Ego had launched herself straight at her opponent's head.

This time, there would be no interruptions.
No second chances.
No delays.

Her own desire to crush this thing underfoot—all of its existence, worth no more than the life of a single ant upon the sidewalk—was placed into this one strike, and in an instant, her leg had pierced through its head. As it began to topple to the ground, Meltryllis began to stomp—repeatedly—into its head, making sure to inject it with her poison with each strike.

"Un! Deux! Trois!"

With that, Meltryllis, a fiendish grin on her face, licked her lips as she flipped backwards off of the shadow and landed gracefully upon the ruined pavement nearby. The desire to continue trampling upon the corpse of the deceased remained, of course, but after taking a deep breath, the Alter Ego regained some of her composure and walked back over towards Nanako.

"Now... What did I tell you about getting involved?!" she asked, eyebrows furrowed in annoyance at her Master (who, at this point, was still bleeding out on the floor). "You're here to make sure that I'm able to do my job, not throw your life away! Honestly, this is why I can't stand humans... Come on, now; get up. You're bleeding all over the floor, and I can't do anything to fix you up. We need to get you somewhere so you won't die and take me with you, okay?"
The Cove

Despite the eerie silence of the area, Nanoha's scans would reveal lingering traces of energy—inherently similar in nature to what was resonating from within what equipment they had procured from their targets—that seemed to be resonating outwards. Tracing its point of origin would lead to the ruined manor atop the cliffside, but a lack of any clear readings any further than the limits of the caverns that they were in would make it difficult to trace the exact location from where they were.

Regardless of the source of the earthquakes, though, the caves that had suffered more structural damage from the assault inn the first place had already begun to fall apart; the agitation only served to hasten their collapse, and the bound enemy that had been left behind in pursuit of the second target, limp as it was, was easily brought out.

The caves as a whole seemed to remain stable enough to be explored at a later time, even after the two had escaped, but they would undoubtedly have changed by the time they had returned.

From there, of course, it was a simple enough matter to return to the door that they had entered through—doubly so when considering how they were able to evade the wary eyes of those present in the town.

The city that they had returned to was just as lifeless as ever even so, but moving back to the door that Youmu had entered through proved no more difficult than the ability of either of the two to follow directions on a map.

Zeke von Genbu

For all the people there were hiding away in the safety of their homes, there was an awful lot of venom being spat out through them. Time and time again, both Zeke and Pandoria were met rough dismissals and, more often than not, complete ignorance. As much as the two hated to admit it, there didn't seem to be anyone here who was willing to even give them the time of day, much less any directions in looking for a lost girl.

"Ah, seriously, this sucks... You'd think that there'd be at least one person here who isn't either absolutely crazy or a complete jerk," the Driver complained, crossing his arms as he followed Hibiki and Magilou en route. The two didn't stop trying to ask for help in the process, of course, but trying was better than doing nothing at all.

"Mmm... Well, yes? Though I'm kind of worried that if we end up using one of these homes as a base, that little girl might end up injured... Or worse," Pandoria remarked towards Magilou, rapping her hands on a window before a response that wasn't anywhere near as rude came in return. Just as she was about to leave, as if used to rejection, though, the Blade immediately backpedaled and waved Zeke and the others over to listen in.

"Ah, yes, um... Sorry to bother you, but, um... We're looking for a little girl, about... Yea high?" she began, describing the girl from the video as best she could, ignoring the fact that there didn't seem to be anyone peering through the window in the first place.

The Cove

Just as the bell had been retrieved, an earthquake began to shake the entire region that both Nanoha and Youmu were present in. It was by no means light, and the presence of energy—malicious in nature—began to pulse throughout the area. The shaking itself seemed to resonate with the waters, their own presence amplified beneath the waves, but all at once began to die down.

Whatever had caused that disturbance was far greater in power than anything else here, but as of now it seemed to show no intent to make itself known yet.

Both the horn and the bell continued to pulse with energy as they had been, but the waters became still and dark, with nary a trace of life remaining in the area.

Returning now, it seemed, would be the wisest course of action.

Jason Liu

Following after Hakuno and Kiara (though it was less 'following' than it was 'being dragged along') Jason came to a pause as the others had. With Benienma now sprinting down the hallway, the conclusion that the other Kiara had not yet been defeated—and given the expression of the Kiara at their side, that was more than likely the case.

"...The other way is blocked by patients who have been manipulated by that... Thing," Kiara said, glancing back at the hallway from which they had come before turning towards the Saber. "I can feel that unrestrained evil getting further from us as we speak... But at the same time, I feel that blindly pursuing her on your own may be unwise. The interest that she has shown in Ms. Kishinami coupled with how the roadblock that we had encountered back there only furthers my own suspicions; could I ask if you could escort us towards her location? Despite the danger, leaving us to be picked off might only end in disaster."


Alter Ego — Meltryllis

Despite her best efforts to dodge around the incoming attacks, Meltryllis found each shot moving closer and closer to her center of mass. Ordinarily, this wouldn't have been much of a problem, if at all; her body, as it was, could easily allow attacks to phase through without much of an issue. But be it because of her contract or some other factor, each of the shots had wounded her. Dealing with both of the shadows present made taking out the Archer far more of a hassle than would be ideal, as each time she had warded off the larger one, the shadow had retreated to take another shot.

"You two are really a pair of nuisances, you know?" she grumbled to herself. After having been forced away from dealing with the Archer yet again, the Alter Ego prepared to simply put all of her attention towards the Archer, all else be damned.

Or, well, she would have, had she not been tackled to the ground by her Master. Pushing her out of the way gave Meltryllis a moment to turn, half in surprise, towards Nanako, who now had a crossbow bolt lodged firmly in her shoulder.

Though Meltryllis had fallen, the bigger worry on her mind now was that her Master had decided, for some reason or another, to take the arrow in her stead. She had put so much work into keeping her on the side so that she could act as she needed—even if that meant injuring her in her own way.

But to think that she would do something like this...

"...You idiot. I can handle the rest of this myself," she said, slowly pushing Nanako off of her and turning towards the Archer. There was a cold glint in her eyes as a sadistic smirk crept onto her face. "That little rat will wish it had died by the time I'm done with it."

In an instant, Meltryllis had left the injured Nanako behind. Before the shadow Archer could leave again, Meltryllis had moved behind it, spearing it through the chest with her left leg. Before it could react in turn, the purple-haired Alter Ego leaped into the sky and, without missing a beat, flung her opponent onto the ground next to her injured Master. The second after, she came flying down after it, a manic grin on her face as she repeatedly stabbed into it with her legs. This time, however, she had made sure to separate it from its arms and weapon before leaving it without any limbs to speak of.

Once that matter was handled, though, Meltryllis turned towards the other shadow before springing off after it in turn. Handling it in the same way she had the Archer would be impossible, but with her own sadistic urges now on full display, her earlier restraint held no bearing upon her as she was now.

Caster — Da Vinci-chan

With Alkyrieaze's own addition to HECATE's information, Da Vinci crossed her arms and nodded her head in agreement. Though she had been the one to posit the possibility of the Master being the target of manipulation, ruling out the founders made matters fairly straightforward.

Her own Master's own suggestion, though, caused the Caster to pause for a moment before looking back towards HECATE. As things were now, there were too many questions to be answered without further investigation; in her mind, the only thing left to do now was to trace their only lead.

"Mmm... Well, I don't think that we have records of the incident on hand, per se, so it might do us just as well to simply visit all of the Servants that fit what we have so far. I don't think it should be too hard to investigate if we've got some official clearance, after all," she said, glancing at the others she had come here with. "Does that sound all right?"

@DocRock@Raineh Daze
The Ruins

Despite their best efforts to hold the pair of assailants back, both the armored skeletons and necromancers found themselves at a heavy disadvantage against their opponents—the latter moreso, given their comparative inability to mount even a confident defensive front against the fox-eared girl tearing through their summons. The subsequent gap in their undead keeping Link at bay only served to further drive them back.

The combined assault of the pair made quick work of the undead that worked to try and block their path, and one by one the remaining necromancers fell. Though the thralls that had been brought back to life by their magic remained (and more than a few were already moving upon the pair despite their masters falling), their destruction meant that there was no further reinforcement to their number.

Among the remains of the twice-killed necromancers, though, there was a single collar that seemed to pulse with energy despite its owner's demise; trinkets and jewels lay strewn about as well, though it would take a sharper eye to sift them out through all of the skeletal debris.

The defeat of the necromancers was soon followed by the feeling of someone watching the pair—a feeling that was more disconcerting than not, as the faint traces of magical energy in the air differed heavily from the skeletons that were 'looking' at them with no such effect.

@Rune_Alchemist@Crusader Lord
Lin Quan

Lin simply sighed at Lena's own assertion regarding her own ability to move about before motioning towards the ever-shrinking objects beneath them as he continued to ascend.

"If you could fly on your own, then we could do without. This is simply a faster way to get us both the information at once," he responded, slowly moving over the walls of the settlement before glancing downwards.

As things were, the locale seemed fairly barebones at best, and completely primitive at first. Of course, this was itself no indication for what the grander world was like, but it would function well to place into perspective how to put their current existence into question. Given their current equipment (or lack thereof), there were a variety of options to be taken in how to present themselves, each of which was worth consideration.

Of course, that was before his companion promptly decided to get a bit too curious and slipped out of his grasp. After a second of realizing what had just happened, Lin moved to cancel his 'platform' and fell after Lena (in a far more controlled manner), regardless of the person that was aiming for him. An arrow wound, at the very least, was easier to manage than letting an ally die in front of him.

Hopefully, he would be able to catch her before anything too unfortunate occurred.
The Cove

One by one, the unfortunate members of the drowned vessel met their second end, their bodies promptly annihilated with more force than any member of this world could deliver in a single strike. What remained, pallid and cold as it was, seemed to still emit traces of whatever foul energy it was that kept them shackled to their vessel, but even that seemed to be unable to bring them back a third time.

The prompt defeat of those present, despite whatever unnatural capabilities a scant few had, would allow for the source of the magical signal to be come far clearer—laying in the hands of the captain of the ship, who had been stricken down at the helm, there lay a single handbell, pulsing with a similar energy that the horn that the siren had been holding.

Of course, cleaning the ship out of any remaining treasures was certainly an option, but that was a matter best left to the girls present to decide upon.

Jason Liu

Despite the apparent joy she was taking in watching her opponent mentally flitting back and forth between the puppet that she was commanding and the blockade preventing flight into the hallway, Kiara felt no more committed to having to deal with the Saber than she did about letting the shadow give its 'life' for her. There were more important things to handle, after all, and as fun as toying with Benienma was, it was, in the end, stalling for time.

"Beast... Beast... Hm... That wouldn't be entirely false..." she responded, licking her lips as she began to sink into the floor, her body slowly disappearing into the shadows. "But if you'll excuse me, I have my own matters to attend to. It certainly was fun, watching that foolish boy suffer. Thank you for the treat."

As she completely disappeared, the shadow Hijikata immediately moved in turn, striking out once more at the Saber as if to stall her for but a second longer.

Just as the group seemed to back off (or, in the case of Jason, led off by Kiara), one of the patients struck out at Hakuno with an IV pole. Before the attack could connect properly, though, their arms seemed to be restrained by a pair of snakes. The attention of those controlled still seemed to be trained upon Hakuno in particular, but the Servant that walked up from behind the three seemed to be mildly irate with the situation.

"Honestly, this has become something of a bother..." he sighed behind his mask, glancing at the three before motioning to them to leave. "Half of the other members of the staff are dealing with their own headaches right now, and I'd rather not deal with additional patients if I can help it. As the head of the hospital, I'll deal with these unruly patients; the other exits should be clearer, though I'll make no guarantees about the safety of this place regardless."


Alter Ego — Meltryllis

Despite her apparently dominant position in combat, the shadow under her had enough strength to aim its weapon for her body once again. The roar from its ally did not go unheeded by Meltryllis as she moved to swipe the crossbow away, and in the brief moments that she had as it drew nearer, the Alter Ego swiftly spun in place and struck and the weapon before springing into the air, the bolt firing and leaving a long cut along her right arm as she did so. After a brief moment as she seemed to float in the air, Meltryllis aimed at the new enemy's face. Without a second to waste, she propelled herself downwards onto its head. The initial impact seemed to cause it to pause, but the flurry of strikes as she began to rapidly stomp where she had landed before gracefully backflipping away seemed to do enough to her opponent for the moment.

"Honestly... If I need to use my Noble Phantasm to deal with that..." she complained, shaking her head as she brushed herself off, blood slowly trickling from the wound. "Two on one is always such a hassle, and fighting in a non-virtual environment is..."

The Arena

The mounting counterattack on part of the Servants present had kept deaths following the initial surprise strike of the shadow Servants to a minimum, and though there were still a scant few unlucky enough to fall victim to the continued assault of the enemies to feed their ranks, it did seem as if the number of enemies present had begun to thin in comparison. Their number, though still nothing to scoff at, had actually begun to thin by this point.

Thinking that such a thing would be the end of it all by this point would be a naive thought, though, as one heavily-damaged section of the stands began to shake in turn. As the scant few surviving groups were slowly being ushered into a safer area (save the various Masters and their Servants that had slowly begun to congregate in the center of the battlefield itself), a shadowy claw seemed to burst out of the ruined seats.

Then another.

The mana from the deceased, it seemed, had been congregating elsewhere—and this happened to be it. Soon, the creature that rose from the stands, a facsimile of a Phantasmal dragon that towered well above the Servants present, let out an earthshaking roar as it breathed out a stream of black flame at the exits before turning its attention towards those who remained.

By now, the shadow Servants that DID remain had begun to refocus their efforts towards those who could actually fight, as it was amply clear by now that killing them would supply their own side with more than the average powerless spectator could.

@ghastlyInc@Rune_Alchemist@Raineh Daze@1Charak2
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