Part 26: one thing reality

We're here. What's going on?

Readings indicate that the Imperial Dragon is 300 meters away, and getting farther. Now's our chance to slip past to Kokubunji!

Now, Richter, Koron, I hope you both have learned something since we were here last.

I've learned many things. I pride myself on my ability to quickly retain information, as you well know.

Okay, Koron, what are we not supposed to do?

...The dragon was going to show up whether I said something or not, Satsuki. 'Jinxing' is entirely based in confirmation bias.


What? I'm right! It's not my fault you don't seem to listen when I tell you this.

Listen, Kororororororon,

That's too many syllables.

sorry, i stammered.

All the book learnin' in the world can do you no good when you don't take into account common sense!

By which you mean superstition. Which is what 'jinxing' is.

As we passed through Nakano Station, the sight of the station all lit up was gorgeous enough after its long absence that I myself absentmindedly pulled out my sketch pad.

Listen, this world of ours is plenty based around human cognition. How do you know for certain that the thing wouldn't have shown up at that moment if you hadn't said anything?

Because it was present in the tunnels and was heading that way anyway! You can just look at the readings! My words are not going to cause it to—Be realistic here, Satsuki.

I've never been realistic in my life, why should I start now?

If we live in reality, there's no sense running from it, even if this whole discussion is one of your 'bits'—

Hey, girls, you're both beautiful, can I point out that Chisa is running backwards while sketching?

That's dedication.

As we exited the station, we entered into an offshoot that would lead us closer to Kokubunji.

The great wyrm, or at least one piece of it, lay in our path. Large crystals grew off of its back, of a gem-like substance I imagine glinted with the same light as the seeds of Bloom we'd encountered. In simple words, I can't quite get across the enormity of this thing, but I assure you it was astonishingly large.

It looks like it's sleeping now, but if we wake it, we're done for. Watch out.

Sleeping? Wasn't it just running from the lights?

I would imagine it's a bit tuckered out.

Can it really 'run'?

What, 'slink'? 'Slide'?

Koron, what's the word for the movement of snakes again? I'm blanking.

'Slithering'. It 'slithers'. When something moves with a twisting or oscillating motion, it's slithering.

Right, right, that's it. So wyrms slither, but dragons would run. Or fly.


You know, wyrms are the ones that don't have any limbs. So they'd slither.

I could swear I saw Koron nearly about to cry, but she did her best to hide it.

Yes, exactly, and I'm very glad SOMEONE listens to me.

Heyyyy, welcome back to the underground! This is a pretty short Underground segment, but an Underground segment it still is.

Frazzled Aide: I never exercise, y'know, so I'm covered in squishy fat! You know that means I've got a gross, oily taste-

Frazzled Aide: What?

California roll.

I remember this joke!



hey guess what gang i'm gonna shock ya earlobes

beep beep.

Cub Reporter: This is bad, this is bad... if I make a noise they'll know I'm here!

we're here to help. be a sshhh and pull this string. ok.

And we are rewarded with gorgeous, gorgeous loot! I love being alive.

I double back from there like a dummy.


Captain, look out!

We don't have time for this!

Get out of the way!

Yo, when did Cap start jetting?!

Tier 3 skills are when our dear Captain really starts cooking with gas. The humble Shadowless has action priority and inflicts Stun, which boots the inflictee's action to the end of the round. Dragonfly Slash has a higher damage cap at higher levels and has Aerial, but it's a nice toy to have.

Once we'd mopped up the bear, our comms began receiving a transmission.

Oh, Aoi! How are things going over there?

We've headed out and are approaching the signal. Everything going well?

Don't worry about us, buddy.

Yeah, we're the ones who are gonna need good luck.

No, it's here, it's just very faint... yeah, this is gonna be rough.

Whoa whoa whoa, Mr. Kirino, you've gotta figure this out pronto!

Oh c'mon, we'll be fine. Several of the missing, including Ms. Hikasa, are Murakumo. If this Imperial Dragon's signal is this weak, then they might be able to hold it off themselves.

But more importantly, why are you still on the line? Let Unit 13 focus on the Kokubunji mission!

Oh yeah! Sorry, Senpai!

They make a good pair.

Yeah, fundamentally they've got the comedic duo down.

...Finally. I'll be able to rid this leg of the subway of you monsters.

You're oddly stoic today.


I've had this odd feeling, today, ever since I've woken up. It's a feeling in my bones I'm not sure how to quantify.

So you're saying you've got a fever, and the only cure is more dead dragons?

Follow my lead!

Carnage Strike, Chisa's new Auto Skill, lets her attack all enemies at the start of a fight. It's basically a 33% chance to end any given random encounter on the first swing, and it doesn't hurt on Dragons either.

you're not you when you're hungry.

I'm ready for you. Come at me!

I'll cut you down where you stand!

Chisa's Pain React in action—when she takes a certain amount of damage, she gets to go again. Good for her!

Koron, I need you to go on the offensive!

I steadied my own breathing, waiting for my cue, closing my eyes and listening for the sound of Koron's strike.

Ah, I see.

Will this be sufficient?

As she fired a bolt of lightning, I darted forward to swing through the particles of electricity, cleaving through the dragon's flesh with my roaring violet blade. It roared itself, and made to attack me again.

Ah, Woodwind Duet. This skill allows Chisa to follow up from Koron's Fire, Ice, Lightning, or Aerial spells, maintaining their targeting and element. It's really, really good. I mean it is really good. Shock is currently the strongest spell in Koron's arsenal, and a base-level Woodwind Duet lets Chisa follow up for nearly as much damage with no buffs or setup. We're gonna have some fun with this one.

You'll have to do a bit better than that!


Do your thing, Chisa!


I was quite familiar with the theory, but seeing a demonstration in practice is another thing.

You really are a terrifying woman.

Will you please stop saying that?! It makes me feel bad!

tbf i think you two and mama fudoji are all terrifying.

Rough being normies in this hell of a world, ain't it, Richter?

Oh, do you want to be a normie with me? That's a good thing, right?

There's another one. Let's get the drop on it!


After using our setup turn to set the reacts, here's Satsuki's Assassin's React in action! Crits equal more turns. It's real good. Her Scorpio skills and similar dagger skills gain pretty high crit rates after reaching about half their levels or so, so it's a good idea to invest in. Chisa and Satsuki both get a React on this turn, so...

Suffice it to say this guy doesn't get to do much.

Oh, someone's over here!

The man had a nametag that read 'Hamachi', which got Youka to give him an odd look.

Hamachi: Okay, look, yes, I know, it's a weird name, yes my name is Hamachi like the fish but I'm not a fish!

Your parents must have hated you.

Hamachi: Right?!

As we progressed forward through the tunnels, my nerves started becoming more and more antsy. I felt an odd adrenaline flowing through me as we walked through.

We don't have time for you!

I mean with you zipping like that what've we got to worry about, right?

We appear to be nearing the end of the rubble.

Iino: Oh, this one's bad. Can you guys help me? I can't make it out alone.

We've got a place for mechanics like yourself. If we bring your tools, would you mind helping us?

Iino: Sure.

At this point, I finally return to that side path from earlier.

I really can't wait until we don't have to do that anymore.

I really, really can't wait!

It is... well, not that I haven't become used to it, but it is rather disorienting.

This is the last one in this leg of the tunnels, everyone! Let's take it down!

You got it, Boss!

Where the caves had been rather quiet, now they rang out with the slight noise of Satsuki's bullets bouncing across various surfaces, just waiting to embed themselves into the dragon's back.

Ricochet sets up a delayed damage effect much like those of, say, Granderodons—Satsuki will continue hitting the enemy for several turns afterwards.

Nice shot, Satsuki!

That is some damn good shooting, how do you do that?

(great shot. excellent.)

...That's the last one. Alright. Aside from the Scaber, we can head on through.

You two... really work together so well.


You and Koron. I was just surprised by the data...

She is the Vice-Captain for a reason.

Don't flatter me.


That's funny. I'm glad those two old ladies' wunderkinds can get along better than they can.

When Miroku said that, I saw Koron's fists clench.

...Miroku. I take issue with you describing me as 'Hikasa's wunderkind'.

Didn't she get you into the organization?

I'm here of my own volition. Nobody forced me to come here.

That's not what she wrote.

Well, Natsume Hikasa is the kind of woman who will send her soldiers on a thinly-veiled suicide mission because she lacks the ability to empathize with the common man, so forgive me if I don't think she has the clearest, most unbiased understanding of my circumstances.

Oh, come on. You'd have to be insane to be here because you wanted to be.


Let me ask you then, Miroku, when you have ever thought I was in my right mind.

You're enough in your right mind to fight. I just mean I think you'd have some kind of reason to be here.

Is the necessity of fighting to save my hometown not enough for you?

I guess.

...There's no reason for you two to think of yourself as her 'wunderkinds', either. The two of you...

Your power to read data and navigate... is a kind power.

I don't know what that means. And be nice, Miroku.

I'm not trying to—

That said, if you find something of yourself in me and relate to me thus, that would be quite flattering, Miroku.

...Shut up.

Smilodons exist.



That is to say, I... er...

I'm glad to work with you, Koron.

I saw Koron unconsciously give another little smile.

...You too, Richter.

Three kilometers to Kokubunji.

Does the old ball and chain have some dirt on you or something, Koron?

No, no. It's... hm. Explaining the whole thing would be quite the long story.

Hey, it's okay. Hey.

Kouta: Don't be scared, I'm okay, I'm doing just fine. I've got this.

Hey. You're okay. My name is Chisa, alright? We're here to help you.

Kouta: *sniffle* Really?

Mmhm. Don't worry. What's your name?

Kouta: It's Kouta...

Listen, Kouta. I need you to snap this string, and it'll take you to City Hall, where there are people who will help take care of you. Are you okay with that?

Kouta: Will you come back, too, miss?

Mmhm! We're working on saving all of Tokyo from the monsters right now, but I'll be back.

Kouta: Okay.



Good with little boys, huh?

Am I?

On and on and on we ran. Of course, I'd run several kilometers before, but these kilometers felt longer than normal on account of the pressure in my chest.

Hikasa was a primary shareholder at the hospital where I spent my years, so the two of us were passingly acquainted before the attack. I had something I wanted from her, so I used my services as leverage.

What'd'ja want?


The release of three other patients from the hospital, as I recall?

So you've read the case file?

Yes, but... well, it was awfully vague. I don't know much more than that, not even who the patients were.

Then you could say that that vagueness was the wager—my services for her silence.

We just made it to where the old Imperial Palace used to be.


That's the one! Any signs of life over where you are?

We've managed to save four civilians, at least.

Ooh, nice! Nothing here yet.

We are still reading the Imperial Dragon, but it's still not strong enough to pinpoint. We may have to return to City Hall if we don't find any evidence in the surrounding area.


...what was that ungodly screech?

seriously good luck dude

Thanks, Satsuki.

So you paid Natsume off to be silent about the circumstances at your hospital, with your joining Murakumo?

Essentially, yes.


...It's a long story. Longer than we have time for right now, even with this long, long road.

I think it was then that I realized that Koron had something I lacked. I had no idea what she meant at the time, but I saw it in her eyes—this incident... it was wrapped up deeply in what she had.

But we're only a kilometer from Kokubunji! Only a little further?

Hey, Koron? Was that teddy bear from one of your friends at the hospital?

...Yes. Yes, he was. I certainly hope that Chelsea returns it to the right address. I would hate for him to be stuck here—he gets fussy when he's stuck in one place for too long, and I would really rather he didn't get snippy with me. He's a terror when he's snippy.

The teddy bear?!

Of course. He and Nagamimi always got along well.

okay see that makes everything make sense

I'm glad you understand.

Calling Unit 13... the power's out, and we need to turn it on to protect the station. Could you go and flip the circuit breaker on the wall?

The lights flickered to life above us, and once again Kokubunji Station was illuminated.

We're finally going to reach Kokubunji... I was beginning to feel like a mole.

Yeah. Same here.


And... there!

We've got relay points set up for this region. The subways shouldn't be nearly as much of a problem from here on.

How's it been going with the materials we sent back, Miya?


Residential C's done. The floor rep there is a Mr. Fujita. You should introduce yourself before you leave.

Thank you! It means a lot.

Cub Reporter: That said, publication's ceased everywhere. Guess I'm out of print for now. But City Hall needs a paper! So—when you rescued me, what was on your mind?

Well y'see—

We don't have time for this in the slightest.

! That claw you've got there...

Arrogant Girl: Isn't it obvious? This is Cerberus, a black claw for Psychics! It's my big bro's favorite.

He clearly has quite the taste if this is his favorite. The workmanship on this is incredible. Satsuki, get the bag of miscellany. How much do you want?

Arrogant Girl: 2100 Az seems right, don't you think?

Oh absolutely.

We paid her, and received Koron's new toy.

...That... disquieted me for a moment.

Plump Man: This time, oh, how about this katana? It's a genuine Masamune, you know. 1900 Az sound alright? You seem like a very discerning swordswoman, young lady.

A genuine Masamune?! I'd be honored, sir!

Plump Man: Treat it with care, young lady. I've always cherished that one.

...Oh. So it's like that.

Plump Man: Unfortunately.

The Masamune is a +21 Attack bonus for Chisa, and the Cerberus is a +16 ATK, +29 MAT buff with a Bleeding rider for Koron. They're great weapons.

Celeb Starlet: No beds, zero privacy, and not even a separate space for men and women? Honestly, this is unbelievable!

Get over it. Nobody has patience for whiners like you.

Celeb Starlet: Eek! Y-yes, Ms. Zombie, ma'am!

Fuck off. Bye.

...Mio's gonna have her hands full with this floor, huh.

Yes, she is.

Coach Fujita: Thanks to you, we're going to be able to live comfortably here. It's not much, but let me show you a little something as thanks.

Satsuki, enamoured with the ninja-run, began ping-ponging around the room at high speeds.

Coach Fujita: Anyway, thanks for making all the repairs! We'll all help you out however we can.

Don't thank us, sir. Thank Unit 4 and Mio.

Coach Fujita: Mio... that's the big girl with the guitar case and the anime shirt, right?

Yes, she is.


Things were never easy at City Hall. But all we could do... was continue on.

That was the thought running through my mind as I came to the facility in Kokubunji.

Next time, we get to enter Trinitro's house.

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