The morning after, Koron was the last person out of bed, and I'm fairly certain that the only reason she woke up was because of a transmission from Major Dojima.
Hey, Unit 13. I'm not the best person to be doing this, but when you've got a minute we should have a meeting to discuss our strategy. No rush, though.
You sleep alright?
As best as I could.
The nation itself hadn't been completely obliterated, of course. The landmass was still there, and no doubt at least a fair amount of people had survived in shelters. However, the message was clear—heavy ordnance had been detonated on the United States' soil that led to the destruction of its military force, in an attempt to deter the Dragoness Mizuchi.
...We were now, well and truly, alone.
He had Neko come and leave that on the table.
He has such a way with words.
Well, ignore his cooking. Culinarians, feed thyselves!
It's hard not to be at least a little cheered up by a lovely young lady's home cooking, eh?
I had a lot of documentation to do since you guys took out two Imperial Dragons in two days, so I figured I'd get two things done at once.
Oh, speaking of—great work! Have I mentioned that?
...You okay, kiddo?
Eh, you know me. Grinning and bearing it, right?
Take it from the master of grinning and bearing it—I'm sorry you have to grin and bear it.
Yeah. Hopefully all this simmers down a bit soon so that we can take a moment to decompress.
At the very least, according to what we know, only the Scaber and one more Imperial Dragon remain—and we've finally cleared Shibuya of the Bloom. I would say we are in fact doing well.
Moreover, I'm told that the Dragoness has ceased her active assault for the time being.
It's... okay. I mean, it's not okay. But I'm the only person who can help me get through it at this point, so I'll live with it. You guys'll have to talk about her like that, right? So it's okay.
I'm sorry. Was I not able to help?
What? Of course you helped, see how I'm not actively blubbering?
...I remain somewhat fascinated by you at times, Mio.
Oh ho? Is it because of my devilish ma'jycks? Have I spellbound you?
No. Rather, amidst all of this you stand out rather like a sore thumb. You possess quite a number of skills, yes, but in this drama of soldiers and machinators you are simply a woman. You stand out for your normalcy, I would say.
Are you calling me a normie?
...Wha—no. No, what? What does that even—
...Right. With everything going on I'd forgotten for a bit what you otaku are like.
omg you're right i have not been doing nearly enough of our routine in the past two days
It's understandable, but sad nevertheless.
You need help coming up with new material?
No see, it has to be totally natural. I have to sound like I'm just really stupid. If it's forced it doesn't work, you know?
Plus if I have scripted dialogue I usually flub it up, even if I write the script myself.
so it's just gotta come naturally, you dig?
That said, o great onee-sama, you do have a skill in the art. I might have to glue myself to you and stare at you for a while, deep into the night.
I can't allow that.
Because she's my girlfriend. I should be the one getting to stare at her while she sleeps!
I DID NOT JUST SAY THAT OUT LOUD
Aww, babe, you're adorable.
it's not my fault if you walk into it yourself
You stare at her while she sleeps often
I mean, occasionally! Sometimes I wake up before she does and I just sort of lay there in bed and look at her while she sleeps and think about how lucky I am to have her and
SATSUKI WHY!! ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME!!
i have done nothing at all
Much as this is funny, do you guys mind quieting down for a second?
...Just... give me a second.
Murakumo Unit 10 was now defunct. Its sole remaining member had perished in battle. A few scant possessions of Aoi's had been left strewn about before she left on her mission with Kirino, so all six of us got to work organizing the room. It felt disrespectful to Aoi, somehow, not to—as though if we simply left her room in the state it had been in beforehand, she would forever be dead on the ground of Minato as another casualty, instead of a comrade who had fought valiantly. If her room was clean, she had made it back.
...We went about our work quietly. Inwardly, I hoped that in the afterlife, Gatou was proud of his apprentice—and that perhaps the two of them, and maybe Mr. Nagare, could all share the spirit of Murakumo Unit 10.
No matter how small it was, Unit 10 were always our stalwart allies.
...Only once we were finished did we allow ourselves to look at Aoi's last message.
To my senpai—While we were searching around, Logistics handed me this thing, but I kind of can't make much use of it here on a search and rescue mission, and I don't know when I'll be back. I think it should work with Richter's Gauntlet? So, even if I can't help you out in person, I can at least give you this!
So how about that? More useful than I am? ...Uh, don't answer that, by the way, I don't want to know. So, when we're all back, you can expect me to be a lot tougher! Wish me luck, okay? Oh, and since we might not see each other for a bit—good luck to you, too!
I saved up a stash, so here you go! I bet Kazuki-senpai is lighting up wanting to eat them, but don't let her—make sure you guys share it! You guys are all great, and I know you'll take down any Dragons in your way out there.
Youka folded up the letter again, placed it on the table, and got down on her knees, clasping her hands in a gesture of prayer.
When we meet again, I'll tell you all about every Dragon I'll kill. So be ready for that. I'll talk your ear off, Aoi.
Why does it have to be you?
Because I'm liable to go first.
In the event one of us dies before you, that would make it rather awkward having to keep it a secret for you.
we're all gonna make it through this, and mama fudoji's gonna live to a ripe old age and die of natural causes.
You're sweet, Satsuki.
i'm also right
That said, you're right. I can't let myself hog all the glory! Here—I'll just tell her about all the dragons I kill, and then when the rest of you show up, you can fill in your parts of the story. How's that sound?
Yeah, alright. I can work with that.
And that was how we said farewell to Aoi Unose, our friend and comrade.
People probably have a fair number of issues. We should check in.
Yo, Taichou-chan! Are you genki? Positive thinking?
As well as I can be, under the circumstances.
But, I am in a state where I can handle requests, I think.
Yeah, I'm gonna be making my rounds soon here anyhow. Gotta head to the flea markets, see how people are doing... You know the drill.
Mio-chan is sparking! A tekketsugoi worker, a nekketsubarashii caretaker, and a reiketsumimasen lover, ne?
What, did she say something not even you two understood?
Sharon... you, like... watch anime?
Oh, yeah! Japanese animation is wicked cool!
Wait, was that a reference to something?
'Tekketsu, nekketsu, reiketsu', babe. C'mon.
...Wait, is that what she said?
I don't understand a word you all are saying, but I am very glad you're having fun!
Ms. Miya, why are you holding those three slips of paper in your hand?
I need to give you my report on the construction effort. If Sharon allowed you to go off on a wild goose chase before I could, it would be improper, and I couldn't deliver messages.
She was mondo hayai about it! Miya-chan is supasonic, ne?
I'm just glad he's okay. And likely Ino too, from the sound of it.
So they want a scrap, huh? ...Well, don't say I didn't warn them.
The Clinic's where they're training! Ganbatte your best, hero-tachi!
Okay, we're here now, Miya. What's the situation?
First of all, we've finished the renovations on the final residential floor. With the disappearances, it is admittedly an awkward time, but we're covered for housing. I didn't catch the floor head's name, but he's a staffer and he's quite serious. I'm sure you'll find him.
The Meeting Room has been renovated as well. The Prime Minister himself wishes to thank you for this one.
You and my father are quite the duo if you can manage this much work all this quickly.
We had an influx of new help. Also, I have been awake for almost seventy hours.
You could've just said that, you know.
Speaking of the new help, we've renovated the last remaining floor into a space for the members of that street gang you brought in. A boy named Akira asked for you by name, Miss Fudoji.
Glad he got better from that lump on the head.
And with that, every floor of Tokyo Tower has been made functional. While renovations will continue to occur, I would like to thank everyone involved. Unit 13, you were a great help in procuring the necessary materials and people to accomplish this monumental task. As you know, this has been my charge since March. It fills me with a deep satisfaction to have completed the brunt of this work.
One last thing. Masaki from HQ wanted to see you all about something. I don't know what. It might involve needles. Please prepare yourselves.
You did a great job, Miya. Thank you.
Thank you. You may have these back, Sharon.
Hai, hai! Oyasumi, Miya-chan.
Goodnight, Sharon. Goodnight, Unit 13.
Miya then pulled out a futon from under her desk, and laid down right there behind her desk in her work clothes to go to sleep. She was, as it turned out, quite the sound sleeper.
Yoshah! Let's ikouka on, hero-tachi!
?! This is Asami's handwriting!
Hai, hai! Dangerouser and dangerouser—this is an emergency! Sounds like she's in a dai pinchi—you'd better hurry and ask what's the haps, Koron-chan!
At the very least, she's made it back to City Hall... Still, whatever this is, it's going to be nothing good. Whatever other errands our group has, I'll no doubt have to go on this one posthaste.
That's fine. I understand.
SDF to citizens, SKY to Murakumo... We get quests from minna-tachi, eh? Well, check this official letterhead! It's from a national representative! MP Ariake is waiting—show the government the untapped potential of the Quest Office!
To SKY? That's something of an odd happenstance.
Who knows with these government types?
Awww. I think I know which kid this is. He's looking for paper, huh?
To say arigatou, somehow!
Well, then it's our job as grownups to help him!
I handle my rounds here in a really strange order here, and I recorded this footage a while ago so I'm honestly not sure what my logic was. Our first stop is Residential D.
Collected Child: Oh, nee-san. I didn't realize you were part of the team that takes these requests.
I am indeed. Admittedly depending on the problem I don't get to help out much, but my organizational skills are second to none!
Collected Child: Do you remember when I got here? I want to thank the people who helped me then, by fixing my injuries.
Yeah, I remember. You've recovered great.
Collected Child: So, I'd like to make some origami! There's not a lot of paper on this floor for individual use, so could you get me some?
Sure, sure, no problem! Be right back. Relatively.
Flea markets time! How you doing, buddy?
Cheeky Boy: Oh, Murakumo! Sweet, this one's just for you. I call it the 'Rogue's Band'.
LOOT?? LOOT?? LOOT??
Cheeky Boy: Let's put it at 2980. You want it?
LOOT!! LOOT!! LOOT!!
Cheeky Boy: Well, that's it for my shopkeeping, then. Couldn't have found anything without this thing.
Cheeky Boy: But you guys are the real heroes, so I hope you make decent use of this!
As implied, it's an accessory that increases the drop rate of items off of enemies. I don't know by how much, but if there are still quest items you need to pick up, or you want to grind for Quality Fuel (or Dragon Eggs off of Bloom Seeds,) it's a big help.
Pleasing Lass: Oh, you're the samurai girl from earlier.
That's right, I am. And you're the girl who gave me back this sword.
Pleasing Lass: Since I had Tomoegozen for a while, I started looking around for other things that went well with a katana that nice.
She produced a small box.
Pleasing Lass: I found this—inside are memoirs of an ancient blademaster. I've been calling them the 'Iai Teachings'. I asked around, and I heard you were very good at learning these sorts of things, so I thought it might help you.
That's quite an artifact! Hold on, I'll need to go ensure we have the goods for something like this.
The Iai Teachings are a Samurai-exclusive accessory that allows Chisa to start battles in her Iai Stance instead of using a turn on Sheath Spin. It's a great pull, but it's also 10,000 Az, so it's time to do some ~inventory management~
Mr. Nagataka: Hey, sweetie, I heard you took out another one of the big guys!
That I did. Have you slept? I understand that you've been doing quite a lot of work on the construction with Miya.
Mr. Nagataka: Oh, darling, you know I have the art of the power nap mastered.
Coach Fujita: It's bad enough fielding disputes at the best of times, but this might be the worst it's ever been... That woman from the cult keeps going around trying to convince people, the loud boy's friends haven't shown up, and I still haven't been able to totally convince the one girl that you aren't a zombie, Ms. Fudoji.
Has the lady from the cult actually convinced anyone?
Coach Fujita: No. But she's trying, and it makes people uncomfortable.
Well, good! I'm glad everyone trusts me more than they trust her.
Truly, we couldn't be blessed with a better PR rep.
Celeb Starlet: Hey, Ms. Zombie, do you know where I can find a teapot? Nobody ever offers me tea in here! It's the worst!
You could probably find one in the Skylounge, but you'd have to get past the steward.
Religious Woman: Some girl keeps going around telling them that I'm full of it and that the people killing the dragons are in the right! How can we find salvation this way? I know that's what the Founder wants! I need to make them see the light! Do you know which person around here this 'Mio' girl is? I need to give her a piece of my mind!
No, but I hear she's really attractive and cool and smart, and like, has an eight-pack.
Arrogant Girl: This is mama's favorite dagger.
What exactly did she use it for?
Arrogant Girl: Huh? Whatever she felt like, obviously!
It's 2620 Az.
Arrogant Girl: What? You thought my family was dead?
Arrogant Girl: C'mon! My family's all martial artists. If the Dragons make a ruckus, they'll be more than happy to go mess them up.
That's a massive relief! I am very happy for you!
Plump Man: Since the young lady with the jacket and the pockets liked that dagger, I imagine she'll like this as well. How about this 'Pocket Army' gun?
I see. A gun that in the right hands, has the power of a full division...
It's 3200 Az.
Plump Man: No surprise—naturally, you'd agree.
I'm... wow I'm sorry.
Plump Man: No, that's a good thing. Weapons like these belong with young people like yourselves. Thank you—you've lightened this old man's burden.
Both of these are solid upgrades for Satsuki, and the Venom Kukri has a Poison rider on its attack, too! Nice!
...In case it wasn't obvious, we're solidly in lategame now—we are in fact selling out the flea markets now. This is actually our third-to-last batch of sidequests for 2020, too.
...In case it wasn't obvious, we're solidly in lategame now—we are in fact selling out the flea markets now. This is actually our third-to-last batch of sidequests for 2020, too.
I don't get it. I mean I get the materials, but I don't get this whole song and dance thing.
You wouldn't get it, Keima. It's a young ladies thing.
It's a young ladies thing!
Is it a young ladies thing?
I believe it is a thing for a certain breed of young ladies.
I think something must've seeped into his clothes. I might have to just make him some new ones myself to spare us all.
Nagare's Wife: This is an awful time, but we have to fight, too! So let me know if you need anything, Mio.
Yeah. Back at you, Mrs. Nagare.
Forlorn Girl: If it... I, ah... I put together one last First-Aid Pack! It's got, um, Heal Aeros, and... dragonwater? And, um, some pretty crystals!
You've always done a great job! Of course we'll take it. Right, Chisa?
Right. Of course.
This one is 3000 Az, and gets us 3 Heal Aero 4s, 2 Dragon Dews (the best Mana recovery item,) and 2 Hypno Crystals (upgraded revive items.) Thanks, Forlorn Girl!
Forlorn Girl: T-that's great! I mean, I... I knew that if I'd never gone looking for this medicine, I would've regretted it. And if this medicine helps you while you fight for us... I'll be really happy!
You've been one of our longest-term supporters. Thank you very much for your assistance, ma'am.
Crafty Woman: Me, I've been thinking lately about how beset to support you myself. So I puffed up, did my best, and managed to get all this!
That is a startling pile of energy supplements.
Crafty Woman: I'd love to give it free, but I do have to support myself—
No worries! As Unit 13's Treasurer, I accept your price!
It's 2000 Az for 3 SP Up 500s.
Crafty Woman: And with that final deal, I think that's about all I can find for you.
I sure hope so.
A scintillating conversation.
Serious Staffer: Despite our situation, you managed it. As a city official, I must applaud you on the public spirit you showed by restoring it.
Oh, no, sir. We—well, you should really thank the construction staff, not us. All we did was gather the materials.
You can thank me!
Healing more HP on revive? Thanks, guys!
Serious Staffer: When we got unreasonable requests, people would faint, you see, and we'd have to—well, at any rate, do try to remember this in case of emergency.
We ought to get you together with that sailor. Maybe we can throw Hamachi in the water and let you two fish him up.
Koron, you shouldn't make assumptions about people.
There might be plenty of fish in the sea, but maybe Hamachi doesn't want to get fished up—maybe he's the sort who's okay staying alone all his life.
I mean you said you wanted to hook this guy up with the sailor.
What are you talking about?
That doesn't even make any sense!
Fervent Fangirl: That red swoop of hair, the checkerboard cape, the cherry blossom pants, the jade jacket off the shoulders, the missing texture scarf, the guitar case and Count Hargreaves shirt!! It's Unit 13!! In the flesh!! I'm, I-I-I-I-I'm SUCH a big fan, I just—meeting you is all I could ever want! Oh my gosh! Oh this is totally unbelievable, please don't mind if my nose bleeds a bit!
It's nice that someone appreciates us for all we do, hm?
'Missing texture scarf'? What is she talking about? Your scarf has plenty of texture?
I am not sure I could explain it to you if I tried.
You know Valve has a fucking missing texture in their stairwell? They did when I visited in 2014, at least.
I miss when I thought highly of Valve.
You know, you can delete a lot of TF2's VPKs, and turn the game into a nightmare of nothing but missing textures. Good luck determining who to shoot!
I miss when I thought highly of Valve.
You know, you can delete a lot of TF2's VPKs, and turn the game into a nightmare of nothing but missing textures. Good luck determining who to shoot!
Suspicious Man: Are they just Heal Aeroes? No no no no, they're Fix Aeros, two of 'em! They'll fix any wound!
...Yeah, maybe later.
Wow. I didn't think they had standards in there.
OG Scientist: I was going nuts trying to figure out what to do, until I realized I could sell what I had from the lab!
I hate scientists.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THAT
Are you a goddamn moron?! What are they doing with—?!
So I think I figured out why you were fired.
So I'm gonna have to bust open our deep funds in a bit here.
Calm Girl: ...Under the clothes... put the vest on... stops going into shock... looked hard for one...
It's a Stop Cut for 1000 Az. Stop does suck.
Calm Girl: Okay. I hope I did a bit... finding stuff.
You did. Thank you for your help.
Mrs. Nagataka: Heyyy, don't forget about me! I've got something new in too, daughter!
I had no doubt. What's—
Mrs. Nagataka: It's a little buddy for your buddy here!
It's Ignivor! How much?!
Mrs. Nagataka: It's 1500 for it!
A Freeze-negating accessory. How handy!
But I must wonder, what are you doing with all of the supplies we give you?
Mrs. Nagataka: Aww, you can't guess? Well, you know how I always wanted to open up a candy shop?
Oh, I suppose now would be a good time to chase your dreams, wouldn't it? Optimistic as always.
Mrs. Nagataka: With all this, I should have plenty! I hope to see lots of smiling faces in my shop—including all of yours! Tokyo's gonna make a big comeback, and I'm gonna be right there for it! Now, that's a 'will to fight', right? Fight-oh, Unit 13!
I wouldn't miss it for the world, Mrs. Nagataka.
It's Ignivor! Look! Mio, have you seen Ignivor's little fuzz? How precious!! Did you know that Atlas moths don't possess fully-formed mouthparts? They rely entirely on fat storage for energy! That's why their lifespan is so short. An adult Atlas moth only lives one to two weeks! Did you know that? I personally find it rather fascinating that the Atlas moth was used as the inspiration for a Pokemon line based on the sun—you know, because the sun 'dies' and is 'reborn' every day, so it fits with their short lifespan even if Ignivor and Ramoth don't share this facet. Goodness! I wonder if Ramoth silk is particularly soft.
Yeah, I bet all the rich people in Unova wear Ulgamoth-silk clothes and feel really smug about it.
But you only actually find them in the wild in Alola!
That would only make them more valuable.
Huh! It's not a bad place, is it?
Akira: Oh, it's Fudoji!
That's my name, don't wear it out.
Akira: So, you guys were the ones who got all the materials for this floor, right? That means... ugh, okay, Tao dared me, you're not getting this again!
You did great, buddy.
Akira: Argh damn it I feel like an idiot! Tao said I was too chicken to do the fanfare but I had to show him—look, just take this!
A medal with 'offense' written on it?
Akira: It's a prize in SKY for the toughest attacker... and now that we're working together, that's you, Fudoji! So just... take it! God!
The Giant Medal is an accessory that gives +10 ATK, MAT, and SPD. It's really good.
Made him do it, eh, Tao? Mastering that reverse psychology?
Tao: Tch. Don't expect me to trumpet about your heroics. Not after all those knocks on the head!
Yeah, I get that one.
Sou: Still, Takehaya hates Murakumo, and he's still staying here, so it can't be all bad. And you're here, Miss Fudoji.
See, Tao? Someone can appreciate me.
This again? I still think you're misreading it.
Hari: C'mon! I'm telling you, she's alllllways with Takehaya! There's only one explanation, but she never tells him! It totally burns me up!
Well, I'm telling you that you're reading too much into it. He might as well be her father.
Hari: Where's your sense of romance, Miss Fudoji?
Well if you must know—
Please don't shatter her dreams!
Ako: Hey, hey, did you see Takehaya's posse helping you out yesterday?
Yes, they did a good job.
Ako: They take my breath away, man! Takehaya and Daigo, killing it out there—that's what it's all about!
You don't have a shot, buddy.
You don't even have a gun.
I have a gun and a shot!
What. No. We're too similar, it would be weird.
Right, you need someone a bit more grounded.
i'm glad you understand.
Sui: ...So, like... can you give me your shot?
Gotta game to get game, my dude~
...Hey, Maki. How're you holding up?
Maki: I'm just feeling so weird. I... I feel like I wanna forget things—people who aren't here. But if I forget them, then it's like they didn't exist. I just wish I knew why I felt so bad.
Shino: ...You saw us, right, Miss Fudoji?
Yeah, we did.
Shino: Then... don't tell her. For her sake.
...yeah. She's a good kid. Doesn't deserve that.
We headed up to the Skylounge, but had an unexpected visitor there.
I thought you were going to be holding a meeting, Major?
Yeah, well, things've slowed down, and there's work to do around here. I figured you guys would probably be a while.
Since the fight at Ikebukuro, I've been a bit out of the loop with what you guys've been doing, so I read up a bit on the details while I had some spare time. Made me realize just how tough you all are. So, I thought...
...Rin's hands started gesturing about as her voice unsteadily stumbled through her statements. Frankly, I really wasn't used to seeing her so flustered.
Are you okay, Rin?
Well, it's just... you know, it's... argh, just take it!
And then Rin pulled out from under a table,
the largest pile
of bento boxes
that I had ever seen
in my life.
Oh my lord!
DID YOU MAKE ALL OF THOSE
How are we meant to eat all of this?
Look, I had a lot of time while I was out of combat, I've been making these for a while, helps keep my hands occupied while I'm stressed out and I thought it might make a nice present or something! I don't know!
That's thoughtful of you. Thanks.
—and I mean, your body is your livelihood, so—
Thank you, Rin. I really appreciate it. You're a good friend.
Man, how did you hide all these? Did you carry them up here by yourself?
Look, that's beside the point, okay?! And, I mean, once we've gotten this kinda thing set up, if you ever... you know, need anything...
Here's our delayed reward from Rin's Heart Quest. We'll also get an Email from every NPC we complete one for, which does have a purpose, but it's a very, very minor purpose. Mostly it sits in our inventory and looks pretty to signify our friendships.
I'm gonna get back to work. I just—
It's okay, I didn't get much experience with gift-giving when I was younger, either.
Don't make me feel more embarrassed, okay?
Our next stop was the Laboratory, where I admit I was not quite expecting to see a certain someone up and about again.
Hey. What's up?
Oh, hey, daughters, ladies.
Hey, Chisa, Mio. Can I... can I talk to you? I think we need to have a family talk.
Mind waiting until we finish this bit of my rounds?
Yeah, sure. I'll come with. Don't mind me.
And she did, and she was, in fact, quiet.
MP Ariake: And... why is Dr. Akaneno with you?
Just waiting my turn. Don't mind me.
MP Ariake: ...Hell must've frozen over. Well, it's not a serious matter, but... don't you think those SKY kids work awfully hard despite their youth? I've assembled this small package as thanks, as well as this enclosed note. Someone in my position can't meet with them, you see...
Yeah, we'll get it to them.
MP Ariake: I feel like you must have something better to do, so I am sorry about this.
It's fine, sir.
Prime Minister Inuzuka: Ahem. I would like to formally acknowledge the extraordinary services you render daily. Chisa Inomiko, Koron Nagataka, Youka Fudoji, Richter Esslinger, Mio Akaneno—
Prime Minister Inuzuka: ...Yes, and you. Not only have you slain many a Dragon, but you've also rebuilt City Hall.
This one's a 30% buff to SP gain! You can even stack it with the old one if you like.
What, that's it?
Prime Minister Inuzuka: I know it's pathetic, but as prime minister, this is the sort of thing I do. We'll likely see a new government form once the Dragons have been taken care of, so best for me to practice my political acumen until then... haha...
Right, okay, aaand...
How's it hanging, Miku?
I'm glad someone is that certain of it.
Your positivity is an inspiration to us all, Ms. Hatsune.
Mio, Homura, and I all took seats at the Skylounge bar.
So. Hey, daughters. Hi. So. I feel like... you know, we should talk about...
She babysits my kid like a billion times, we've been hanging out for like decades, and then she brains me over the head with a wine bottle—
So that was her, huh?
I was in the room when she was about to go. Kind of figured it out right before she did, so she knocked me out. I always...
It's like, you know, I always—I mean, I—I knew—She's kinda—you know. How she is. But I never thought she really hated me like that. So I kinda don't know what to do.
Do you two hate me?
What no come on no what
I mean it just makes me think that I don't know, maybe I've been doing things wrong I didn't realize I was doing wrong, and I mean, I'm kinda—I mean, I'm bad at changing. I mean, I just don't know—
Homura slammed back a glass of wine.
I mean obviously I'm not the only person that got hurt by this, I mean she killed like a bunch of people and traumatized Kirino and all that and I mean I know you're definitely pretty crushed too Mio look like I get it but how—what do I feel about—I mean—
God DAMN IT!
I just... I just don't know—I don't know what I was supposed to do. I don't get it. I thought she was my best friend in the whole world and now it feels like I didn't know her at all.
And I—I mean, I—for a long time she was basically all I had, you know? I mean it was me and it was her and it was the rest of the world, she was the only person I could really talk to. Did she... did she always hate me?
I don't think so. I think her feelings about you were probably pretty complicated.
Speaking from experience, right?
...What am I supposed to do now?
I think... I think for right now all we can do is keep going. The world isn't going to stop for our personal dramas.
Right. You're right. I've just gotta...
She clapped herself on the cheeks.
Yup! I'm Homura Akaneno, Japan's most beautiful genius! That hasn't changed.
I mean I don't think it's changed. Has it changed? Do I qualify as a genius anymore—?
You do way worse work when you're not overly self-confident. Look, we can talk more about this later, but people still need your help. You can still do good.
OH I CAN?
People are waiting for the Dr. Akaneno to help save the world, you know. Think of all their smiling faces?
YOU'RE SO RIGHT
I am a public personality, after all.
She patted both of us on the back.
Glad we had this talk, daughters. Okay? Okay. Good talk. I'm off to work! Have fun!
I don't know how you do that.
You get used to it when you live with her for long enough.
So, we have to see about SKY, visit Ino and Guchi in the clinic, see about Ms. Asami, find some paper, and visit Mr. Masaki, correct?
Asami was visibly panicked when we came in to visit her.
Asami: Koron! Oh, thank god you came, I'm so glad...
What? What happened?
Asami: She helped me get out of there, but they're blaming her, and she... she's going to be killed! That founder treats those broken-hearted people as tools to get what he wants, and... and I couldn't stand being there any longer!
Asami: But when I tried to leave, he flew into a rage, he... he said he was going to offer me to the Dragon God tonight! Sachi helped me, but... now she's going to be offered in my place!
Damn it! How long do we have?
Asami: I think it's about three hours before they'll be ready to go—they're going to be in Yotsuya, but... I'm such a horrible friend, I tried and I failed and I just can't go alone—
No, you're not!
Koron put her hands on Asami's shoulder.
This is my part of the job, Asami. I'll save Sachi. I swear to you I will save her.
I'll show that damn 'Founder' the wrong end of his own ass!
Asami: ...Thank you, Koron... thank you!
We should go see Masaki before I head out. It's possible he'll have something that will help us in combat.
Masaki: So, I've been thinking about something. To best utilize your abilities, obviously you have to have the best skills you can to use, and for that you—and we—need combat data, but as far as I go I also work in this realm of conjecture—
So you've got some pointers for us or something?
Masaki: Right, that's my Unit 13! Always on point. Speaking empirically, I've been studying all of your fighting styles and I've got theories to allow you to go full throttle, if you will—skills you can only use when you push your talents to the limit.
YOU'RE SAYING WE CAN GET SUPERMOVES??
Masaki: That is exactly what I'm saying! But I think we're going to need to trigger your abilities to develop in each case in order to develop them. You all have reached a level of physical capability that's sufficient, but you haven't quite gotten that spark, you feel me?
Okay, so how do we do it?
Masaki: That's you, Chisa—and you're a very adaptive person. I think it's possible you could emulate a subject if you were to battle some manner of animal that had evolved to also not waste any movement, for maximum combat potential. Now, I've actually heard of this black rabbit in the Kokubunji Factory—real threatening thing, nearly took down a whole squad of SDF soldiers by itself. I'd say if you fought that thing and studied it, you might spark something—but wait! Just so we're clear here, I hear it's secretive and wily, and you're quite the predator. You might have to go all by yourself.
Wait is Chisa a Blue Mage now
I think he's saying Chisa is a Blue Mage now.
So I'll have to go hunt this black rabbit down by myself?
...Sure. I can do that. You're right—I might get something out of it.
Masaki: You, Richter, you're a smart guy, but to really break your limits, you've got to find something to break your comfort zone... and I think I've got just the thing.
...That's going to help him?
Ah, I see. So through understanding the underlying programming of video games, I might be able to advance my understanding of my own programming?
Nah man, don't worry. I'll be able to show you. There are like, three issues in City Hall—leave it to the beautiful Satsuki, eh?
Unironically, video games are some of the most complexes pieces of software I can think of, so...yeah, this tracks.
Richter started flipping through the magazine.
Hmmm... hmmm... yes, I see... hm...
That was interesting.
Masaki: Some manner of secondary focus beyond Nagamimi, in your case, Koron. It doesn't have to be something especially magical, though, so much as it is just something you vibe with, if you feel me? You remember that you have a skill or two that imposes a piece of your internal logic on the enemy, right? Well, I've heard tell of someone managing to actually create a bubble of their own mental logic in the real world—and it takes something like this.
Masaki: So... I don't know. Check the local flea markets for some curios! Find something that vibes!
Oh, yeah, I know that guy!
Masaki: Frankly, Satsuki, I think at this point all you need is a weapon that qualifies, and the man's got just the thing he's been working on. You'll need to bring him some supplies for the toy he's been working on, but I'm sure you can do that, you're a loot hound.
I sure am!
Masaki: As far as you go, Youka, obviously you're awfully tough. So here's what I thought—What if you jumped?
I can jump.
Masaki: But high. What if you jumped high? I think about the only thing you haven't managed to weaponize about your body is the force of gravity, so I'd recommend studying a Tower Dragon that the recon team saw hopping about Ikebukuro—you know, the ones who can jump really well?
Ugh. I hate those guys.
First question is do I get one?
Masaki: Jury's still out on that one!
Second question is, what's with the titles?
Masaki: Oh, sorry! I guess you hadn't heard that before—those are our internal titles for given operatives. Obviously you have your ranks in the unit itself, but, for instance, calling Satsuki a 'Treasurer' doesn't get across her nimble, technical fighting style.
Mr. Masaki has quite a few foibles.
So we've now unlocked the quests to unlock the EX Skills! These are supermoves for each class that you can only use while in Exhaust, and boy are they strong. Our characters need to be Level 40 or higher to complete these quests, and obviously we need someone of the class in the party to do them. We'll be tackling them all before we move forward with the plot.
Hamachi: No, wait, I mean Mizuchi. I'm bad too, but that's a whole other kettle of fish.
Do you have some manner of illness, sir? Are you alright? Do you need to see a doctor?
Hey, Jeanne. How are you holding up?
I'm just... doing my best to work. Trying to read the data as best as I can. I want to find us a key to winning. I want to do everything I can.
Okay. We've got business for the time being—We're going to do our best, too.
...Except for me. I've gotta keep fighting to the end for them. There's no way I can give up now!
That's the spirit. You're gonna do 'em proud, kiddo.
Hey, can I get some paper?
This ought not take long.
Ino: Oh come on, the people who're gonna give us practice are you guys?!
We can leave if you want.
Guchi: Wait whoa whoa, wait up, wait up, Miss Fudoji—Ino, apologize!
Ino: Me?! You do it first, Guchi!
The two bickered for a bit before Ino turned back to us.
You can think whatever you like.
Ino: Anyway, y'know, we're... we're buds now, so...
Guchi: Even in Shibuya we weren't much use. Kinda gets to you.
Ino: ...I don't even remember much of that. You remember what happened?
Guchi: Nah, I just remember being at City Hall suddenly.
Well, if you say so.
It's time for our final battle with Ino and Guchi.
Our final battle with Ino and Guchi is now over.
C'mon you guys, those were rubber bullets. I didn't even hit you that hard.
Ino: This isn't fair... you guys are even tougher than last time!
This is just sad. You two are in the same gang as Takehaya?
Guchi: Well, whaddya expect?
Ino: We're tough compared to losers, but we're losers to Takehaya.
I'm sorry to say, but the two of you are essentially civilians in this sort of situation.
Guchi: Wha—you think this is some kinda joke? We're freakin' SKY!! The SDF can't do what we do! Treat us like civilians, will you, grumble grumble...
Ino: ...But we are kinda weak.
You're not useless, you know. We lost a lot of people recently—City Hall needs kids like you to defend it while we're gone. You two have got the spirit to do it.
Guchi: ...Yeah. Yeah, you're right! If we can protect this place, that's better than a stick in the eye!
Guchi: W-whoa! Red alert!
Yuki: And did I hear gunfire in the Clinic?
Ino: Haha, hey, wait, don't worry, it's fine, we caught it with our bodies—
Yuki: Don't you argue with me, young lady!
I'm amazed he slept through that.
Hehe. He can be quite the heavy sleeper when he wants to be. Even if it pains me to see his face twisted with nightmares...
Thanks for taking care of them, too.
Not a problem. We're working today, too, after all.
You can make bullets outta rubber?
yeah man, they're great for nonlethal takedowns.
...Did you think that I was shooting you with real bullets when we were fighting??
You mean I don't have crazy bullet time powers that let me not get shot?!
I told you.
Miss Kazuki is a kind woman. I doubt that she would fire lethally upon any person, even if her life depended on it.
I'm not gonna actually shoot you, c'mon. It's not like you would've killed me, either. Right?
Well yeah, but. Y'know. I mean, she came at me with a real sword!
...I did do that.
Which makes it all the more impressive that you came away with no lasting injuries.
Can you quit hyping them up?!
Have I... done something wrong? I believe that their commitment to nonviolence in these cases is an admirable trait.
You tell her, Daigo!
She's right, Neko.
Zzz, smrrfnng... shut up, Neko... zzz...
Sure is, my dude.
I had a feeling keeping these around was a good idea.
But hurry up, I need this pronto.
Iino: ...Should be fine if you're handling it.
It took him only about fifteen minutes to finish, and he handed Satsuki...
Is that a grenade launcher?
it is, it is
And the ammo?
Iino: That's done, too.
Not used to weapons this heavy, but I'll get there.
And that's Satsuki's EX Skill unlocked. You do have to buy them at the steep cost of 9500 SP, but trust me when I say that they are worth it. Ragweed Ammo in particular might be in contention with Trash Pickup for possibly most busted skill in the game—it's an absurd skill. We'll talk about it when I actually buy and use it, but suffice it to say that Satsuki is going to scramble some fools.
EX skills range from "nothing special but still very strong" to "what the fuck." Ragweed Ammo is definitely towards the latter end of that scale.
Okay, get going, you guys.
You're not coming?
I've got a rabbit to go hunt.
And I'm gonna go look around for this Tower Dragon.
And I have work to do!
Right. We'll come back with good news, then. Satsuki, Richter. Let's go!
You got it, chief!
I split off from the rest of the group, and headed over to Kokubunji. But, when I made it there, an unexpected face was waiting for me—or perhaps an unexpected lack of a face.
That masked man who'd called himself a 'gardener' was sitting on a railing in the factory, staring up at the sky through the gaps in the building.
...This is an odd moment of happenstance. Good day.
...Well, I said 'man'. I supposed at that point, listening to his voice, that that was merely an assumption—I supposed maybe I'd remembered incorrectly, as his voice was rather androgynous.
You're that guy! What the hell are you doing here?!
You could say that I've been taking in the sights. That woman's actions are curious. Surely she knows she will fall.
...'That woman'? Natsume?
The one who calls herself the Dragoness Mizuchi, yes. I have no doubt that you and yours will slay her in time. What brings you to this structure? The Trinitro has fallen.
...Well, I was told I should try and study a rabbit.
Ah. I know the one. May I accompany you? I would be interested in seeing you battle.
Huh? Sure, I guess...
I didn't feel any particular ill intent from them, but it was certainly awkward.
...Don't you need some kind of weapon?
No. They will not harm me. You need not worry yourself.
...You seem perplexed.
Well, I guess I just didn't expect to run into you... coincidentally. I—
How are you here? No, how were you there?
In your original world?
How do you believe that the two are separated that you believe such a thing would be impossible?
...Huh? What do you mean?
My presence here and there is no stranger than yours.
So you're not telling me.
...Hm. In truth, I find myself questioning what I should tell you. I had always intended to remain an observer, but happenstance placed us both here together, and I am well aware that you do not like being left out of the proverbial loop. My apologies.
Huh? That's... it's okay. I didn't expect an apology.
I bear you no ill will. In truth, I have a vested interest in your survival.
Can I at least know your name?
Iod. Got it.
...It's strange. You're about the only weird, otherworldly person I've met I don't know things about at this point.
Give it time. It's fully possible that it will come to you. This is, after all, not the first time we have met.
See? I told you that big, empty space would be relevant.
Ah, there it is.
I shall observe. Do be careful.
...Show me once more, if you would, the force of the one who slew Tyrant.
So here's the funny joke—This fight is actually really tough if you take it on right now like I am. The Rabbit Type Zero hits like a truck, and while it's not very sturdy, only Chisa gets to fight it, and it gets the Dragon-standard two actions—so right from the get go, she's on the back step.
Do not underestimate how much harder even fights against single enemies can be when you are suddenly on the losing end of action economy.
I was able to get the first swing in this battle, but I knew right from the outset that this was going to be no ordinary rabbit.
It's okay. Focus. Study its movements...
Thankfully, it doesn't double-chomp.
Zero idea how you'd do this fight without Pain React, honestly.
This time, it double-attacks, which don't do enough damage to trigger Pain React.
It's okay. I can do this!
Masaki wasn't kidding—for such a small creature, this thing hardly missed a beat.
I don't remember if I've ever used Renki First Aid outside of this context, but in this one it's great—Chisa and the Rabbit are at about even speed, but the priority heal guarantees me a shot at living by ensuring I get some healing before the Rabbit attacks. Which, suffice it to say... I need.
Just be still, I told myself. Don't waste any movements.
Bust out Exhaust for the guaranteed priority, and with 3 HP left...
May your body quiver/as by the swing of my blade/it falls to the earth!
Your form is impressive. Have you gained what you sought?
I'm not sure how, but...
...Yes, I think so!
...Then this has been a worthwhile endeavor for you. Congratulations.
...I doubt it, but would you like to come to City Hall?
Would anyone there accept someone whose face is masked such?
True. It might be a hard sell.
...Was it you? Did you bring me here? Did you... did you take Mio to Iorys in the first place?
Then who did?
The answer to that question would not satisfy you.
In asking that question, you expect to have someone you can confront and ask for answers, but you will not receive the answers you wish. The person who did this to you does not exist in this world. You will never meet them. You will never be able to ask them why this has happened. You are a person who desires answers—but no answers which may satisfy you can be obtained here.
I have no desire to needlessly cause you distress through giving you such answers. As I said, I bear you no ill will.
...But... how can that be? Was it someone back on Iorys? Was it—
Wait. Wait a minute. You're... a 'gardener'.
...I didn't move into a 'parallel world' at all, did I? It's not a parallel timeline. It's—
This is the planet they went to, isn't it?!
Alexis, Kaelin, Magda, Dosen, Cecil, Gram, all of them, this is the planet they came to. Isn't it?
It's not a real 'parallel world'!
Is there a meaningful difference? It is a world with different people, a different language, a different culture. It is a different planet entirely. Whether displaced by the boundaries of quantum physics, or simply by distance and time, it is, to you, another world.
I guess not, but...
...It's just sad. To know that this is happening to the world they made, too. Was all that fighting for nothing?
No. This world here would not exist if it were not for—
Wait a second. But Mio is from Earth.
So is this a stable time loop? Did Mio's intervention always happen? How can that be?
...I am not the person who should be having this conversation with you. I lack tact and many human social mores. However... that girl with the blue hair.
No. The brighter blue hair. I do not know her name, but I understand she is rather famous.
Yes. Miku Hatsune, that's right. I would recommend having a discussion with Mio about her, if you desire an answer to that question.
How does THAT work?
It will make sense in time, I have no doubt. You are both intelligent.
Those four people... Koron Nagataka, Richter Esslinger, Youka Fudoji, and Satsuki. You care for them deeply, yes?
With all my heart.
That is good.
Iod went to leave, but I threw up my hand.
Wait! Will I... ever see you again?
...If circumstances deem it fit once more. Be well.
I was left with more questions than answers, unsurprisingly... but part of me was glad that Iod, by all rights, didn't appear to be my enemy. Still, my head was spinning as I left Kokubunji. That's probably why I headed to Ikebukuro next—I thought I could use Youka's counsel first of all.
Next time, we finish up the EX Skill quests, and maybe even get to that meeting.
That boat needs to be defended. There's very precious supplies on that boat.
For the Seal Spies.
We need to be defending that boat to save the Seal Spies!
For the Seal Spies.
We need to be defending that boat to save the Seal Spies!
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