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Ragazza Magica Renza Veneti [PMMM/Lyrical Nanoha fusion]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Guessmyname, Jan 24, 2013.

  1. IMPORTANT NOTE: This story has moved! Please head over to the Sufficient Velocity thread for further chapters, discussions, artwork and whatnot.

    So uh... I have no idea what I'm doing but somewhere along the line a Puella Magi \ Lyrical Nanoha crossover happened. Primary inspiration goes to the most excellent Game Theory by Aleph (from which I am cribbing 99% of my worldbuilding because seriously, it's just that good), Infinity by Moczo and To The Stars by Hieronym; this isn't a fic where, say, Madoka and Nanoha actually run into each other, it's more about worldbuilding and examining how the Puella Magi might (try to) operate in a fantasy/sci-fi culture with its own established magical systems and history, and hence has an entirely OC cast (not counting the Incubators). If you wanted to see the canon characters interacting, you'll want a different fic.

    A-Also this is my first real attempt at a full-length story and also my first real foray into Spacebattles please don't eat me I'm not made of marshmallows...

    FF link here. Game Theory can be found here and here, Infinity here and To The Stars over there. They're not required reading or anything but hey, they deserve credit.

    I'm trying to keep this story as accessible as possible, so if I've lost people at points please, please let me know.

    Contents:
    Prologue
    Chapter One
    Chapter Two
    Chapter Three
    Chapter Four
    Chapter Five
    Salbazier, ggs, mdman1 and 16 others like this.
  2. It looked like a car accident.

    That was Renza's guess, anyway. The Barrier extended outwards in every direction, filling up the whole world though she'd only breached the inside a few minutes ago, the glimmering tear in nonreality still sealing behind her back. The wide, pristine streets of the Polincia Boulevard she had been walking down had been replaced with...

    ...Well, she wasn't completely sure what and where it came from but it was definitely some sort of road. Or motorway. Or a mad painter's vague impression of a motorway if they happened to be really, really drunk. Would probably take some of those black market pills to get quite to this level of abstract insanity.

    Where one would normally expect a motorway to be flat, with nice, gentle curves laid out for the sake of the drivers, this one... or this multiple ones, ignored all the common logic that went with what made a road. As if a bored bunch of architects had detonated a ball of string, frozen it in time and built their roads to the free-falling, drifting squiggles; lines flying upwards, outwards and everywhere, the roads weaving, looping, twisting in an impossible, illusionary maze. Like standing on Road Spaghetti. And this was just the roads.

    Streetsigns and lamposts, not posted at regular intervals, here thoroughly and with intent ignored all common sense; forming jail-like rows of bars; sprouting crazy, metal trees; growing out organically from every angle at every surface in complete and cheerful disregard of the laws of geometry, physics and gravity. Just like everything else in this damned Barrier.

    As for the car crash comment, well, that was explained by the cars. They floated, they drifted, suspended in zero gravity in a slowly swirling chaotic minefield of shattered plastics and crushed polyfiber. All bore some kind of damage, and - this was where it got weird - half of them had designs she couldn't even recognise. Your average Caglican electric barca made up the majority; built like little pods roaming around on three wheels with bulbous antigrav devices built around the base; but some of the others... some of the others were just plain bizarre.

    Four wheeled, eight wheeled, seventeen-and-a-half wheeled. A few of them looked like their designers started drawing and didn't know when to stop; others were quite blatantly just children's toys a few scales up. One or two appeared to be ornate boxes of wood with a wheel on either side and straps of... animal hide? Maybe? Mounted on the front? Kaisers knew what those were. All awash in a mishmash of colours, most she recognised, some she was pretty sure didn't exist. And all in a dizzying, drifting array that swung and crashed into each other like clouds, whilst the mad roads ran random, scurrying paths weaving in, between and around. Quite where the light to see all this came from she had no idea.

    So yeah. Car crash.

    It was always a little disorientating breaking into a Daemon Barrier.

    Renza shook her head, blue hair (which wasn't that long, no matter what her classmates kept telling her) fluttering around in random patterns. Something seemed off about the air currents in here. She'd transformed before she broke in - just common sense - but the girl stretched her limbs and double-checked her outfit anyway.

    Blue, naturally; a particularly royal sort of blue deep enough to drown in, making up a dress, ornately fond of white lace and ruffles, flowing down from the collar to flare around her thighs. The knee-high boots were solid and practical. The disconnected flouncy sleeves that spewed out over her hands... well, those weren't. A gleaming white ribbon, really too large for its own good, tied her hair back at the base of her neck, nestling, she knew, a cerulean blue gem the size of her fist.

    Kaisers, the number of problems that arrangement had caused.

    If you didn't look at it too closely, it could probably pass for a fancy Mid-Childean style Barrier Jacket. She certainly hoped it would. Of course, why she was wearing a Barrier Jacket would raise it questions all by itself, but it was easier to lie about that. Keeping the secret here was... tricky. Girls supposedly had it easier on Non-Administered worlds but it didn't look like she'd be getting off to any of those any time soon. And besides; Caglica was home.

    She nodded. Everything seemed to be in order. Time to get to work.

    Kyubey; the situation?”

    Ten, in the centre of the barrier.” The telepathic return was calm and unhurried, sounding a bit like a small, whispering child at the back of her mind. “The miasma is thick though; it's best not to linger.”

    I'm on my way.”

    Putting the oddities of the barrier and the unfairness of her costume out of mind, Renza darted forward, covering distances in vast leaps and bounds, her acceleration from 'standing' to 'cannon-fire' faster than a human should withstand. This was always the best part.

    Leaping from car to car to signpost to signpost, she flowed up the mad, non-dimensionally abstract world, a dart of blue in a kaleidoscope of foreign colours. Wind brushed past her face barely more than a fresh, dawn breeze and the power in her legs came naturally like a brisk morning jog as she cleared vast cliffs of broken automobile and twisted lamppost with every bound.

    Even for a Puella Magi, she knew she was fast.

    She felt it; a subtle tug at the tip of her spine where her soul gem rested. Instinctively she looked down, skidding on the ribbon roads to slow her momentum for a proper look.

    Ten people, just as the Kyubey said, sitting in the centre of an oversized roundabout; a crayon sketch of black asphalt and white painted lines as if viewed through a bucket of water. Too-tall figures surrounded them, made of white cloaks and bald heads ending above the jaw in a glowing, abstract, pixelated mess. Daemons. Just over a dozen crowded around the inert civilians, standing tall at twice the size of a man, emitting a low, brassy hum like priests in reverence. She wondered if the ancient Priest Kings looked something like this. Renza could hear their droning even from her vantage point miles above.

    ...Though maybe the hearing was a Puella thing. They were weird like that.

    Discarding that thought, she crouched down into a coiled spring. At a mental command, a pair of axes wrought in ornate silver burst into her hands, erupting from her floofy sleeves, clearly defying the logic of how they could fit up there. The metal was a familiar, natural weight; her grip solid and ready. She er, wasn't completely sure why her wish had seen fit to provide her with axes of all things (it seemed a little brutish; swords were infinitely more heroic), but she'd never had the courage to ask.

    She focused, counting properly this time. 13... 14 Daemons. The chanting drone built steadily in pitch and volume, and the faint, sickly smell of miasma began to creep up even to her lofty heights. Kyubey was right; the civilians wouldn't last much longer.

    Still... a little over a dozen that were unaware of her presence, and she had a decent high ground. Yeah, she could solo this.

    Kyubey, take cover.”

    I have.”

    Dropped wasn't the right word. She launched; her platform of a multicoloured plastic semi shattering under the force as Renza lanced forward; a blue and silver missile. She flung the axes in her hand outwards, sending them whistling away in symmetrical spinning arcs converging on the monsters below. Two more pairs took flight in this manner before she drew her final set and prepared for landing.

    Not that she'd slowed down, or anything.

    The first hint of her arrival was a resounding sonic boom that shook waves through the distorted air of the motorway barrier. Followed shortly by the largest concentration of daemons abruptly detonating in a conflagration of sound and noise as royal blue rocket slammed down from the heavens. The wave of scything axes, thrown to strike all their targets at the same time, followed next, sweeping down at the six furthest from Renza's crash site. Ten in total fell in the first strike, their disrupted forms breaking away into pixels and flakes of pure white light, their drones rising to a distorted scream as the rubble cascaded around them.

    In a world of horrific powers and fragile wielders, he who struck first was king.

    ...But now for the tricky part.

    The four remaining reacted immediately, dispersing and flowing backwards in a retreating formation, building distance and spewing forth lances of deadly energy in unpredictable gutts and bouts that pierced through the clouds, zeroing in directly on her position.

    And Renza's crater was big.

    Still reeling from the sheer power of her dive, she forced herself out with a burst of magic in her legs, feeling the heat of the return volley passing way, way too close past her head. The daemons were aware of her now, backing away and splitting up, trying to pen her down in a vicious crossfire until one of them could land a finishing strike or the torrent of lances could tear her to ribbons.

    The back of her neck felt very exposed.

    She charged, desperate to catch at least one of them before they could relocate to their advantage. Her magic made her good for one thing; mad, crazy dashes and crashing into stuff. Race in, get close, hack it to pieces, keep going. Generally a pretty good strategy, except for the part where daemons could cheat.

    The nearest daemon she lunged for sank straight down through the ground; her axes whistling through nothing but air.

    Acting quickly, she slid into a roll that bled off momentum - with the daemons' uncanny accuracy, doing anything in a straight line would be suicide - using the motion to disguise her tosses as the axes flung out from her hands to zero in on her next target.

    Trying to get clever and take two out at once simply wasn't worth it. Her designated victim swept out of the way of the first axe and almost dodged the second, taking a spinning hit to its side sending it reeling and rolling through the ground. A definite strike, but no clue if she'd actually killed it.

    No time to get one either. The next barrage came down and she was already moving; attention switching to the attackers that remained. That one would be down for at least a few minutes, and she had to find where the one she missed first went before it could snipe her in the back. For the next five minutes, 'Out of Action' was good enough. The future was miles away.

    The two she could see stood on the opposite side of the roundabout. The enthralled crowd of civilians - office workers and engineers, from what Renza's spared glance could guess - sat directly in the centre, still listlessly staring into nothing and mindless of the artisan carnage around them. Charging through that would be suicide for her and death for the civilians; the daemons wouldn't kill them off-hand whilst they were being drained, but she knew taking out a Puella would hold far greater priority. So she took to the ribbon roads.

    Each landing redirecting her velocity with a flick of her foot, she danced and weaved amongst the spinning cars and road signs like a mad, coral pinball as volleys of light turned everything behind her into painted slag. She ricocheted her way through the mayhem, swinging out from the side, coming back around to the opposite end of the roundabout, only to find the daemons had, of course, moved as well. Her eyes widened as she took in exactly what they'd done.

    Bastards!

    Whilst she could not dash past the civilians for fear of casualties, the daemons had no such compunctions. The two she'd tried to flank in the first place had taken the far more expedient route of just moving across themselves, leaving her right back in the same situation as she started. The third reappeared straight up in the middle of the crowd, spitting out lances alongside its fellows as if daring her to charge. There was no sign of the fourth.

    Heading for the roads had been a mistake; the only thing she'd gotten was further away. She couldn't pull back for another skydive either; they'd only follow her and she wouldn't get the distance. And that stars-damned bastard in the centre knew it.

    Well, fine. Fuck him. Her axes didn't fly in straight lines.

    Nothing said they had to fly in predictable arcs, either.

    With outstretched arms, she flung. The axes she'd been carrying flew out in curved trajectories, spinning around a car and a battery carrier carved from wood. They arced in on the two at the back as if a distraction, making their targets shift positions without a skip in their barrage. More fool them.

    Renza couldn't make them dance about like gnats, but she'd found through trial, error and a lot of broken fenceposts that she could tweak her axe trajectories in mid air. Put simply, the curve of the arcs along which they flew could be controlled to great effect by making small adjustments in their spin. It only worked inwards; trying something crazy like a reverse shot would fail immediately as it robbed them of momentum and dropped them out of the sky. But making them arc faster? Yeah, she could do that.

    The pair whistled past the central daemon with barely a flutter of its cloak, the lone figure content to completely ignore them in favour of upping its barrage in support of its targeted allies. As a consequence, it missed the axes' abrupt increase in speed, slicing around in sudden, spiral curves. They crossed once, behind its head, before spinning around in an ever tightening circle that put them in a direct collision course with-

    The creature had just enough time to veer backwards in what Renza sincerely hoped was panic before the twin axes smashed right through its face. Yes. That had definitely been satisfying.

    The last two dropped straight though the floor with a parting volley of bolts, depriving her of targets. She let her control on the axes fade, letting them careen off above the civilians to finally crash into whatever. The captives in question hadn't even blinked.

    She didn't miss a beat. Landing in the centre of the group, she punched a hand into the ground and raised a... well.

    In a circle around the would-be victims, the illusionary matter that made up the pavement erupted in a shower of crayon bits and plasticine. Giant, zweihander axes with heads the size of car bonnets - copied from a Belkan museum actually; it's where she'd got the idea, though the originals hadn't been quite that size - replete in silver and blue, rose up in a criss-crossed, interlocking formation, creating a protective fence that...

    ...no. Calling it a Shield, in the Mid-Childean sense, would be an insult to Shields. The defence was purely physical and, as she knew from bitter experience, littered with gaps painfully easy to snipe through. But it was something. With the amount of debris careening around - a lot of it her own fault - it was better safe than sorry. They were what she was fighting for after all.

    The last two daemons arose on opposite ends. She leapt.

    First, she had to break their fire. Two axes flung out, one at each target. There was no way they were going to hit, and sure enough they didn't, but it forced them to move and disrupted their line of fire. Those precious seconds got her out of her own axe-wall.

    Second... well, it didn't really matter which she went for first. Her leap left her closer to one over the other, so she went straight for that. Obviously this meant the other would be that much further away afterwards, but what could she do?

    The daemon she descended on sank immediately, but she had the answer to that. Faster than it could flee, an axe flew out; at such short range it caught it right at the base at the intersection with the floor. Roughly equivalent to a punch through the lung, she guessed; the giant's sheer size doing it no favours. Clean kill; it broke in half and was dissolving even as she crashed into it herself scant moments later.

    So one left.

    Renza panted, beginning to feel the strain. A pressing weight build on the back of her neck; a symptom of her soul gem running low on power. Were it at her front, she could at least keep an eye on it.

    Something triggered. An instinctive reaction flared and she spun into an immediate roll, axe lashing out behind her as she spun.

    At her back, the last daemon broke in two. White flakes drifted out like a collapsing snowledge as it died with a mournful tone.

    ...Renza laughed, the stress bleeding out. The past two times now, the final daemon had done the exact same thing. With the her soul gem where it was she... well, it did invite being shot in the back.

    Renza!”

    The little whispering voice.

    “Ah, Kyubey! Are you alright?”

    A little white creature about the size of a cat, with doubled up ears; one set feline containing the second set, long and floppy, ending with floating metal rings that nonchalantly disregarded the lack of anything to hold them in place. It scampered along the tattered not-quite-aphsalt ground before flowing up her leg and up onto her head in fast, practised motion.

    It felt warm, but barely weighed a thing.

    Fine, thanks to you.” It's mouth, she knew, would be completely static in its fixed, calculatedly cute smile as the creature surveyed the battlefield. “Your tactics are improving.”

    “Ehehe, thank you!”

    The axe-wall now redundant, she let it drop and came over to examine the civilians, one eye watching the false sky.

    “This Barrier is taking a while to-”

    Renza!”

    The Kyubey's warning barely came in time. A spear of light flashed beneath her, exploding her inner thigh in a stream of bright red gore flashing before her eyes.

    Time hung, for a moment. The wound didn't even seem to hurt.

    Then the pain crashed down around her, her legs collapsing like a doll on cut strings as her entire leg caught fire in agony and she was colliding with the pavement and the white creature leapt off her head and -

    There was enough left in her to immediately roll aside, scraping past the follow-up volley that lashed craters into the not-concrete in a hail of light, sparkles and crayon powder. Behind her, in the vague direction pointed by her failing legs, right where she'd cut the last one in two, a daemon rose.

    A flutter of pixeled flakes caught her attention. A small, granulated gash trailing sparks of light from its side. Even in her horrified state, she recognised it immediately. The one she hadn't quite killed at the beginning. The one she'd winged five minutes ago. She wanted to sob, pain eating through her limbs as red so much red ran away and pooled beneath-

    Renza!”

    The little Kyubey's distraction nearly cost it dearly; the daemon diverting its attentions immediately and spitting further fire and light, forcing the smaller creature to scamper and flee with spears of energy stabbing at its tail. Renza gritted her teeth, holding in a scream.

    A giant axe, bigger than a bus, erupted out from the floor and shattered the daemon like a snowglobe; a cloud of white, pixelated flakes that drifted away into nothingness in peace and serenity.

    The axe toppled on its side with a ground shattering clang.

    Her final attack. Still working on it after figuring out that wall thing. S-Supposed to be flashier than that...

    Renza!”

    The little voice sounded close. Behind her head.

    I've collected some of the cubes. Hold still; I'm going to shut down your pain response.”

    Something soft and warm touched something deep inside her, in some indescribable place. Her legs went numb.

    Don't try to stand.”

    For several moments, she just lay there and wheezed. Controlled her breathing. Air in, air out. Breathe. Around her, the barrier cracked and faded. The insane diorama did nothing as apocalyptic as collapse in on itself; it simply faded, drifting away, erasing itself in a blur of pixels. She was lying on the top of a building in the Economic District, amongst the glittering white spires and masts, bleeding red bright and lush out from her leg as the barcas skimmed below along the canalways on their light antigrav and gulls called somewhere overhead and that group of office workers she'd forgotten about starting to stir-

    Not even a mental command, more like an instinctive tug and her dress cascaded away in a peaceful flutter of blue petals. An equally blue, egg-like shape resolved in her hand for a moment, blurred and unresolved, before shifting into a silver ring on her finger; something normal and irrelevant.

    And so Renza Veneti became an ordinary girl with a hole in her leg and a soul in her hand, passing out with a smile.
  3. Ragazza Magica Renza Veneti
    Chapter One

    ~*~

    “...I'm sorry I can't be more helpful.” Renza apologised, clutching the bedsheet that pooled around her waist, her blue hair tied away in a ponytail for convenience's sake. Her civilian Jacket had been configured into a white hospital gown, her name and age displayed on her chest for easy identification by the staff. Bright sunlight filtered through the tall glass windows of the Policlinico Serenità; Valezorro's central hospital. The atmosphere was clean and sterile, pleasant and airy. They'd even given her her own private room in the Accidents and Emergency Ward, though presumably in deference to the two officials sitting before her.

    The detectives from the Valezorro City Judiciary hung their heads. They made a contrasting pair; a tired, sunken, middle-aged man with shaggy charcoal hair trapped in that twilight period between youth and old age and a woman with clearly Belkan features - blue eyes and blonde hair cut above the neck - sitting neatly and attentively, the very model of a polite but firm investigator that projected so much more confidence than the shabby heap of a man sitting next to her. Both wore the dull grey and Caglican Blue of the Judiciary Office, the sharp fitting suits accentuating both the man's weariness and the woman's professionalism.

    Behind them both and visible only to Renza, a Kyubey sat atop a shelving unit, overlooking the proceedings with an intermittent swish of its tail. It had to handle the cover-up, after all.

    “It's quite alright.” The man said, his voice surprisingly calm and focused for his shabby appearance, leaning forwards on bony elbows. Despite being clearly somewhere in his 30s, his air reminded her vaguely of that of a kindly grandfather.

    If that was true, the woman made for a very stern aunt, or possibly elder sister. “Are you sure you can't remember anything?”

    “I'm sorry; I blacked out after I was hurt. I didn't see what happened.”

    “Were the group that brought you in present at the time?”

    “No.”

    “Did you know any of the people in that group?”

    “No.”

    “Do you have any idea what might have caused the mass collapse?”

    “No.”

    The detectives exchanged a glance.

    “I'm sorry.” She apologised weakly.

    The woman slumped her shoulders whilst the man clapped his knees, back creaking as he stood. He offered her an apologetic smile.

    “Well, santina, I'm sorry we've taken up so much of your time. Your family will want to see you; wouldn't want to keep them.”

    Renza nodded. “Thank you.”

    The man held the door open to allow the sister-doctor to poke her head through.

    “Your father is waiting outside.” she said, as the detectives filed out the room. “Is now a good time?”

    She assented, smiling. “Yes, of course!”

    The sister-doctor nodded and left, whispering a few words in Belkan outside before the door reopened.

    Her old man lumbered in with worry in his eyes. His face was craggy and sunbeaten, looking almost scarred; something his current expression did nothing to help.

    “Renza...” He breathed.

    She smiled weakly. “Sit, padre, please.”

    Head bowed, the man obeyed, dragging one of the chairs to her bedside. It seemed almost comically small when he sat on it, creaking as it took his weight, his arms crossing over the back of the seat.

    “Renza... what happened?”

    “Like I told them, padre. I was hurt, then I woke up here. I don't know anything else.”

    He breathed out, hoarse, giant hands gripping one of her in a rough but warm, cradling grip.

    Padre... it's okay. It's alright. The doctors are fixing me up.”

    “I just...”

    “The investigators will find out what happened.” She patted his hands with her free. “Don't worry.”

    Slowly, the man nodded. “If you're sure.”

    She smiled, tilting her head. “I am.”

    He let out one final breath, the weight lifting from his frame, letting his face break into a gentle smile.

    “Alright then. I've called in at school; they know you're here.”

    “What about your work?”

    He snorted. “They'll let a man visit his daughter when she's hurt. Be sure of that.”

    She giggled. Her system was still full of painkillers and even though her Puella nature rendered them useless, by reducing her connection to her gem she could replicate the effects close enough so as not to alarm the ward nurses. A metal and plastic cast covered her injured leg, hidden under the bedsheets, dispensing mana at regular intervals and enticing new cells to grow. Several Physical Heals had been cast on her already; supposedly her body was reacting well; she'd be out in a few days. On crutches, or so the hospital would think, but out.

    “Get well soon, mia belle.” He prayed, still holding her hand. “I don't want to lose you.”

    Somewhere along the line, the Kyubey had disappeared. Probably tailing the detectives. She looked back down at her father, and patted his head.

    “You won't.” Renza promised. “I'm right here.”

    ~*~

    “I doubt I need to tell you this, but any comments would be appreciated, Schwesterdoktor.”

    The Serenità sister-doctor sighed. It had been a long day and Fraulein Veneti had been an... odd case. It was only natural the Judiciary would be asking questions about it. Having left the room, they stood now in the corridor before the very seat Veneti's father had been waiting; the helpful but busy sister-doctor and the two stoic but polite Ispettore.

    The issue wasn't that she didn't want to say anything; she desperately did. The issue was that she didn't really have any information to give, beyond what obvious facts the Ispettore could and doubtless had deduced themselves.

    The paediatrician wrung her hands in frustration.

    “I'm sorry, Frau Buhr, Herr Pinici.” She explained, pronouncing the man's surname perfectly despite the linguistic shift, “But I really can't explain it. The wound wasn't magical; there's no foreign mana traces on her. If I had to guess I'd say some kind of industrial accident, but...”

    ...But that couldn't explain why she was found on a rooftop by ten people who'd just regained consciousness. And all three of them knew it.

    “Thank you for your assistance regardless, Schwesterdoktor.“ The female investigator - Buhr - said, bowing politely as the other, Pinici, echoed the sentiment with a nod.

    “Will you keep the Church informed?” She asked.

    Buhr's lip quirked. “It'll be on the news, I'd imagine.”

    “We'll be keeping her school up to date in any case.” Pinici advised, his Belkan impeccable. The weary man bowed politely. “Though please understand there are issues of confidentiality. We cannot comment on ongoing investigations.”

    The doctor smiled, familiar with the issue. “I understand. Please contact me if you need anything else, though I doubt she'll be staying here long. She's healing very well!”

    Pinici smiled. “We're glad to hear it, of course. Thank you for your assistance.”

    “A pleasure!”

    They shook hands, and the sister-doctor went on her way, off to visit the other wards. The detectives left in the in the opposite direction towards the Serenità's docking stations.

    “Well, Fred?” The man asked when they were safely back inside their judicial barca, hovering gently on the waterline. “What do you make of it?”

    Junior Ispettore Freiderike Buhr frowned in the driver's seat, tapping her chin.

    “Hard to say. Crime scene is clean but that leg injury definitely wasn't normal. Lack of security coverage and witnesses is suspicious too.”

    She shrugged in frustration. “It's all too obvious! If it's an assassination attempt it must have taken a lot of work, but they've hardly hidden their tracks!”

    Domhnall Pinici, Senior Ispettore, grunted his agreement. An assassination attempt with a high level of concealment... and a very conspicuous kill method. It just didn't add up. And all this for a girl from the slum-docks? Where was the motive?

    It went without saying that someone had been trying to kill her. You didn't see those kind of wounds from accidents; it was a high energy, non-magical burn, and focused too. Those just didn't happen on the pedestrian boulevards; what would even be there to cause them?

    Freiderike leaned her head back. “What about the strike angle?”

    “I have Diarmuid working on it.” Domhnall said, looking down at the bulky black box shape on his forearm. “Diarmuid?”

    [Sea, mo Rí?]

    “How's the trajectory assessment coming?”

    [Tá siad fós ar siúl, mo Rí.]

    “Very good. Notify me when they're complete. And request a warrant for information on the Veneti family.”

    [Mar is mian leat, mo Rí.]

    “It usually doesn't take him that long.” Freiderike observed neutrally.

    “Mhn.” The tired man sighed. Waiting around here wouldn't solve anything; they'd have better luck returning to the station and utilising the resources there. There was just one thing left he had to do.

    “Diarmuid, petition Director Pascal to have Renza Veneti placed under the Witness Protection Program.”

    [Sea, mo Rí. However, be advised; all positions under the WPP are filled.]

    “Try anyway.” He ordered.

    [Sea, mo Rí.]

    They were obliged to at least try. Freiderike watched the device sadly, already used to this situation.

    However strange the scenario, an attacked slum-dock girl just wasn't going to get the Judiciary's attention beyond the obligatory glance that had send them her way. The odd complications they'd noted already just made it more likely to be dropped because it wasn't worth the resources. The Judiciary had bigger problems, after all.

    Domhnall tapped the dashboard, feeling old. “Let's head back.”

    Freiderike nodded, putting their barca in gear and feeling the hover engines whirr into life as the control circuit switched from the dock's power grid to her own magic. It drifted out from the Policlinico Serenità into the waterway, before jutting into life and merging seamlessly into the traffic skimming the Valezorri Canals in the direction of the Judiciary District.

    Neither noticed their passenger, sitting in the back seat, tail aswishing.

    ~*~

    “Maaan, Ranza, you really get all the fun!”

    “Eh-eheh...”

    Odette Camarr sighed to herself as she walked into the hospital room. Samara was already there, as she'd heard from out in the hallway, monopolising their classmate's head in a game of noogie, blue and black hair flying everywhere in her enthusiasm.

    “Give her a rest Sam; she's had a hard time.”

    Samara Le Bien pouted, vibrant black hair dangling around her captive's nose, and stuck out her tongue, cuddling Renza's head closer. The smaller girl seemed used to it though, putting up with her friend's affections and smiling pleasantly at her arrival.

    Odette placed her bouquet of flowers (blue carmillions; symbols of good health) into the vase provided, half full of similar contributions already. Samara moved aside to let them exchange kisses on each cheek before they pulled back, Odette examining her bed-ridden school friend with a critical eye.

    “...You really are recovering fine.” She observed, surprised.

    Renza giggled, a tiny 'ehehe'. “I told you, Odi, I'm okay. They're letting me out tomorrow.”

    “Eh?!” Samara gasped, leaning almost entirely over the bed (almost knocking Odette out of the way) to stare Renza right in the eyes. “That's fast!”

    Odette, standing back, shook her head with secret relief. “I guess it wasn't that serious then.”

    Renza grinned merrily at the both of them. “Nope!”

    The mood in the room relaxed, and Odette flopped (elegantly) into a nearby seat, flicking her braided ponytail over the back before it got trapped. Procuring a clementine from her pocket, she began to peel it with familiar motions, her rosette-shaped device generating a miniature green knife-laser for the purpose. Samara giggled, neatening out her friend's hair in return for tussling it up before.

    “Ren, did you get my notes on class?”

    Renza nodded. “Mhm. I'm all caught up.”

    Odi smiled serenely, pulling out a sliver of fruit and feeding it to Samara, who leaned over to bite it out of her hand. “Well that's certainly reassuring. You should keep up with your classwork whilst you're in hospital after all.”

    She tilted her head to watch Renza with one eye. “Now... why don't you tell us what you were doing deep in the Economic District during lunch break.”

    Renza winced.

    Samara nodded enthusiastically, hair bouncing everywhere, eyes pinning Renza to her bed as she made what she doubtlessly considered a stern expression. “Mmphm!” She ordered through a mouthful of orange. “Telffus! Tefffus!” Swallowed. “Tell us!”

    “Eheh...” Renza began, arms raised in a placating gesture. “I was... heading to the Basilica...”

    Odette sighed wearily; having expected something like that. “Renza...”

    Samara huffed, crossing her arms. “You religious types!”

    “W-What? It's a really pretty cathedral!”

    Odette rubbed her temples. “Renza, the Basilica is hours away.”

    “I took a comune!”

    Part of Valezorro's renowned public transport network. Still failed to explain why by the Saint's measure she'd felt the need for it. Odette frowned.

    “Even so, you'd only get a few minutes at most!”

    Renza gripped her sheets, looking away. “I know that... I really wanted to see it, that time.”

    ...Odette sighed. She had to give in, with that expression. “Sorry. I didn't realise it meant that much to you.”

    Samara melted immediately, patting her on the head. “Yeah, yeah, you never seemed much of a believer before.”

    Renza chuckled nervously, playing with her hair. “It's... kindof a recent thing...”

    Odette smiled. “Tell us about it sometime.” She set the peeled clementine on a plate by the bedside. “Come on, Samara.”

    “You're leaving?”

    Her eyebrow quirked as Samara hopped off the bed. “Some of us have school to get back to. Rest well, won't you?”

    Renza nodded, and they waved goodbye as they left the room.

    Out in the corridor, everything was white and clean, with well-placed plants to freshen the air and inject some green. Shoes clacked on the artificial floor tiles as they navigated the maze of corridors and departments, following the correct colour road to the exit in companionable silence, surrounded by the quiet, orderly bustle and beeps of a modern era hospital.

    They exited A&E. Samara ran her hand through her hair.

    “...That girl's a terrible liar.”

    Odette sighed. “You noticed too, huh?”

    ~*~

    Valezorro from on high really was a beautiful city. White and blue buildings rose like ancient columns from the tended waterways, circled by sleek white barca, skimming along the water surfaces or even flying if their pilot had a high enough Mage Rank. Birds flocked and swung in the early breeze. Every once in a while, a flying figure could be spotted; in deference to its unique transportation requirements, the usual restrictions on flying mages in TSAB-aligned cities were waived within Valezorro's limits. Bathed in the morning sun that hung dull, heavy and red on the skyline, it looked as if the whole world were made of clay, shining in reds, oranges and gold.

    Nestled amongst the towers of the Governance District, Renza Veneti, in full Puella costume, hair flapping out ahead of her, sat atop a white communications spire, the small maintenance platform serving as an impromptu seat. Deep down below, the city swirled and breathed beneath, out and beyond, from the centre of Governance all the way out to the Residential fringe.

    Out from Governance's modern towerblocks of reflective glass and white steel, the Industrial District sprawled away in a maze of colossal iron pipes and smokestacks half-hidden in smog, connected by hedgerows of girders and walkways. Economic hung nearby, built like Governance but with more flair, corporate logos and colours proudly on display, bright and gaudy even from Renza's lofty viewpoint. Judiciary and Commercial were still in the old style; white Valezian stone and mortar, built lower and squatter than their modern cohorts, but with far more grace, a grand collaboration of towers, arches and domes that reeked of age and pride. Some large shape dropped down over her head, the spire shivering in its wake; a transorbital coming down to land at the spaceport behind her. It didn't hold her attention.

    Random buildings stood out from the sprawl; landmarks she knew. Close by, the towers and spires of the Basilica Vaillieu, home of the Saint's Faith, dedicated to the Sankt Kaiser Olivie, standing tall and proud as it had every right to. The Policlinico Serenità, which she was getting depressingly familiar with, sat a little further away; a large, round, domed structure twice the size of a stadium, built in the old Valezian stone, wearing the age of the institution as a badge of pride, though its inside were completely modern technologically. The Basso Trari upper secondary school, yet another 'old style' building, rose up on her opposite side in a large, ornate triangle surrounded by its own leafy non-native gardens.

    And of course, what she was looking for, far, far away, far at the very edge of the city where the shining whites turned to drabber greys just before they met the glimmering sea, out in the far distant slum-docks of the Residential districts...

    ...Well, it wasn't actually visible from here. But somewhere down there was home.

    The distance felt appropriate.

    “...Was it right,” she asked the air, hugging her knees close, “saying all that?”

    I can offer no judgements. But secrecy is definitely the best course of action.”

    The voice was from nowhere, but she knew the Kyubey was sitting by her side.

    “It's tiring, having to lie all the time.” She said, picking at the wire meshing subconsciously. “If I'm doing good, why can't I tell people?”

    The Kyubey made a little telepathic sigh, one of its odder habits. “We Incubators have experimented with it in the past. It has never ended well for anyone involved. If you wish, the memories of those involved can be altered. They would not ask any further questions.”

    Renza blinked. “Why would you...?”

    The Ispettore you met before have too much information; it's extremely likely they will cause trouble if their investigation proceeds. I called in a telepath to clean up the situation; erasing the memories of your companions at the same would not be difficult.”

    “N-No!” She shouted, breaking out of her knee-hug. The very idea of having someone poke around in her father's...

    No! I can't do that to them!”

    The Kyubey failed to react. Looking down, she found it was indifferently grooming its ear flaps. “You wouldn't be. She'll be arriving in one week. Please make your decision before then.”

    “I-I've already made it! It's done! Finito!”

    The creature did not shrug, releasing its ear to gaze back upon the sea, nothing but a static smile on its face. “It doesn't really affect me. The opportunity will always be there until she leaves, in any case.”

    Renza shuddered.

    “...What about the daemons? Were there any more whilst I was out?”

    None that I was aware of. I stored the grief cubes from the battle in a secure location. We can collect them at your convenience.”

    Renza nodded. “Let's do that now then.” Her soul gem wasn't exactly going to get any lighter waiting.

    Without it needing to be said, the Incubator scampered up to perch neatly on her shoulder, tiny paws gripping tightly in preparation for-

    She stepped forward and dropped, and Valezorro rushed up to meet them.

    ~*~

    The Incubator lead her on a winding path, taking advantage of her mobility as a Puella Magi to weave a confusing trail through the bars and girders of the Industrial district. The air was thicker here, building a rusty-red haze from the morning sun, burning more exotic colours the closer they got to the smokestacks that stabbed up like trees in a forest through the metal undergrowth, the entire place vibrant and humming with indeterminable activity.

    Renza followed the Incubator's guidance, moving blindly through the maze as it instructed, speech-telepathy temporarily abandoned in favour of simply transferring directions visually. She leapt and ran from walkway to walkway to pipe to pipe until they came upon a rusted, abandoned warehouse suspended high above the lashing waves, known only by their sound as they crashed against the supports far below.

    The thickness of the air deadened any sounds they made. Even the waves sounded empty and hollow up here.

    Lost and forgotten, the harsh, acidic atmosphere of the Industrial District had been far from kind. The moulding flakboard that had once made up the warehouse's roof served to give away its age; newer post-TSAB building regulations would never allow it; even the pre-Alliance laws would probably have frowned on its use out here. Under the harsh red haze, the boards had softened and melted, dripping down slowly over the centuries to build a noxious, stinking carpet of filth that seeped into everything. Vague shapes of tortured industrial equipment and dilapidated storage crates stood out in the gloom. The whole thing felt like it was made of wet paper, hanging on a thread above the waves below.

    They entered with no hesitation.

    The Industrial District was... common, as a place for her patrols. With the haze, deadened noise and reduced visibility, it was a natural location for crime and suicides, and hence a vibrant breeding ground for daemons. A man could walk in, deactivate his Jacket and dive, and be dead long before the paramedics could arrive. Even civilian jackets could counter the corrosive air, but it was still a sticking point with the Time-Space Administration Bureau out in the wider Dimensional Sea. Governance was working on it now the greater ecological disasters had been resolved but... well, Caglica was only an Allied world for a reason. The Judiciary maintained a security cordon but they were laughably easy to get past, at least from Renza's perspective. All the sensors were on ground level.

    In her 'Puella mode', as she thought of it, she had none of the features or protections of her civilian Jacket, but she didn't seem to need them. Immunity to asphyxiation, amongst other things, was yet another perk of the contract.

    Through here.”

    The Incubator directed her to a small side room, where a metal false ceiling, now severely rusted, had managed to protect the rest of the room from the stagnant mush. A small cubicle office, by the looks of it; mouldy paper and an almost completely disintegrated work chair sat at an ancient desk being the biggest giveaways. The Incubator directed her attention to one of the drawers, which pulled out freely, leaving her grateful that the desk, at least, seemed to be made of sterner stuff.

    Within, nestled amongst degraded wire-bound files and acidified trash, eight black cubes sat, radiating a faint but palpable sense of grief. Blacker than seemed wholly natural, the cubes, currently inert, seemed to stand out against in the smoky gloom even as Renza thought they should fit in. She scooped them up in both hands, trying to collect as little grit on her fingers as possible.

    “Was this really the best place to keep them?” She asked Kyubey.

    This location is too difficult to access, too distant from civilisation and too dilapidated to be of use to ordinary humans.” It answered calmly. “It's too far removed for the cubes to feed and regenerate. It's the safest place for them.”

    She rather doubted that last point, but still, she could see its logic. If left alone, the grief cubes would, as per their title, draw in and amplify the ambient disorder and discontent of those around them, leading them to respawn the daemons they contained; obviously something that just served to make things worse. If left unchecked, the levels of grief could spiral and reach heights so high they formed a barrier and entirely new daemons would start to spawn, upon which things could get very rapidly out of hand.

    It was her duty, as a Puella Magi, to prevent that.

    Torn for a moment between leaving this horrible place and difficulty of doing so with a fistful of grief cubes, she eventually decided to just detransform, setting her gem upon the desk and laying the grief cubes around it, ignoring the dull return of residual pain in her thigh.

    Coral blue, just like her hair and the rest of her outfit, the small egg-sized gem glowed as little trails of grief peeled away into the cubes, making the gem shine visibly brighter by the second. She watched, arms folded and favouring her good leg as the taint she incurred from the battle drained away, like a heavy weight lifting from her shoulders. Paradoxically, the air felt fresh again, and soon even her ruined surroundings couldn't keep her spirit down, despite the seriousness of the situation.

    When her gem finished draining - shining a point of brilliant, glorious blue alone in the haze of red - she cradled it in her hands and transformed back again, the gem exploding into motes of light that re-condensed at the base of her neck. The throb in her leg faded entirely.

    The cubes, hard to look at now and radiating a truly dangerous sense of malevolence, were not much a concern. The Kyubey had already jumped up on the desk and begun flicking the cubes one by one into an organic 'hatch' that appeared from the teardrop marking on its back, going at its task in a way that Renza really, really wanted to describe as 'merrily' even though she knew better. It had disturbed her the first time she'd seen it, but felt familiar now. Reassuring, even; now this way the cubes couldn't harm anyone.

    For a second, Renza wondered by just what Kaiser the little Kyubey had managed to even get them up here, but she discarded the thought just as quickly. They were Incubators; some things were just better unasked.

    “All done?” She asked, as it finished the last one off with a little 'kyip!'

    It answered by darting back up onto her shoulder; Renza almost protested before realising it had left no prints in the dust. Sure enough, a quick check proved there were no marks from it scampering up her costume. Well wasn't that convenient.

    Certainly. You gathered a profit from that engagement; good work.”

    She nodded, smiling. She'd found, through experience, that if she took out as many as possible in her opening strike she could focus more magic on the remainders; the cubes harvested from her opening salvo making up for the deficit in dealing with the survivors. She was getting there, slowly.

    “Then, lets head back.”

    As you wish.”


    ~*~

    At the Evidence Table, things were rapidly turning sour.

    “...This still makes no sense.” Ispettore Domhnall muttered, sipping a caff that had long grown cold and bitter since he'd snatched it from the cafeteria several hours ago. At the opposite end, Freiderike slumped, tapping her temple with her black glove-Device, dredging her brain to try and find some fresh, new angle they hadn't looked at already.

    Between them, a matte black box - Diarmuid - rested, projecting pictures and information across the desk. Normally, the Evidence Table itself would handle that but Diarmuid, being an Investigative Device, had better functionality. A cable linked the two, connecting it to the Judicia Polizern's databases, as well as providing additional power.

    On display was a map and overlaid 3D model of their crime scene, the Polincia Boulevard, with camera stills and markers hovering above the relevant points, all in all serving to build a complete picture of collected data, evidence and events, in turn theoretically serving to build a picture of...

    Domhnall frowned.

    A picture of what, exactly? They'd been at it for three days, processing witness statements and waiting on lab analyses, but the whole thing remained stubbornly nonsensical; a jigsaw puzzle with half its pieces missing.

    The collapsed office workers were proving, increasingly, a non-starter. Each one had a completely valid reason for heading up to the roof of the building, and each one had no memory of what happened when they got there, only that they woke up later with a schoolgirl bleeding out from the leg. They called the emergency services, the Judiciary and the Medical Rescue Service swooped in, and the rest was pretty much history.

    There was no medical explanation for their collapse, no anomaly present on the rooftop and no foreign mana to trace. They were a dead end. The only major hint that could be gleaned from them was the lack of recording from their civ-Devices. They'd gone dead as soon as they reached the rooftop, coming back online only when their owners reawoke. That left a considerable hole in terms of concrete evidence they could use... leaving only the mystery of the girl.

    According to Veneti's testimony, she had been attacked on the Boulevard, not on the roof. The evidence at least bore out the second part. It was a clear puncture wound caused by something extremely hot ramming cleanly through muscle and bone; the only bloodstains they'd found was the pool caused by the victim's leg bleeding out, not by it getting hit in the first place. A wound like that should leave some very explosive splatter marks, but they'd yet to find a single drop. On the roof or the Boulevard.

    What was more was the placement of the whole thing. On the street-level cameras - private owned security feeds, which again had taken some time to get hold of - Veneti walked out of screen on one, never appeared on the other. That gave them a predictable area in which the crime took place; the blind spot between the two security cameras, a small wedge-shaped area highlighted in blue on their map.

    From the wound profile, they knew the girl had been hit from behind, from a low point of origin. They also knew roughly where she was standing and what direction she was headed when she want off camera; just walking down the centre of the Boulevard. A white dotted line plotted out the extrapolated path from where she left the first camera and should have reappeared on the next had she continued on her course. Only... for that to be true, whatever struck her should have appeared on both cameras; first as it came to strike her from behind, second as it continued straight through the other side as it had to have done with that kind of injury.

    Simply put, their records showed neither. The obvious answer was that she had turned before being hit, and that too had taken place entirely off camera; a trail of events that invoked the word 'coincidentally' far too often for either Ispettore's liking. The possible combination of angles for this to take place were extremely limited... and had no evidence to back them up either. Given the low firing angle, whatever did it must have been sitting on the street; there were no windows nor alleyways to attack from which, quite apart from the sheer idiocy of such a plan, begged the question of how Veneti had failed to see it in the first place and, for an assassination attempt of this level of sophistication, how it had failed to score a fatal hit at such short range. Why they hadn't simply shot her again had potential answers; the energy device could have a single shot disposable. But then why waste such a thing on a schoolgirl? The mafias couldn't afford to throw that kind of kit away on... well, some 14 year old from the slum docks.

    And the Devices, too. Like the office workers, Veneti's device failed shortly after she went off-screen. Veneti; the office workers; the amazing sophistication in keeping the whole act hidden and the amazing ineptitude and pointlessness of the act itself. His thoughts whirled around in his head in a fool's spiral; going nowhere and crashing into each other with contradictory information.

    ...None of this made sense.

    He sipped. It didn't help any.

    “Who would be stupid enough” he whispered rhetorically, “to put an energy weapon out in broad daylight to kill a schoolgirl, then be incompetent enough to miss?

    Freiderike looked up as an alert blinked on her glove-Device. “Ah, that information warrant came though.”

    “Oh? Let's have it then.”

    The Junior Ispettore rapped her knuckles gently on the top of Diarmuid's blank surface, a soft green glow on the glove's part the only indication of a data transfer.

    Windows, images and scrolls of text popped up around them, the 3D simulcra of the Polincia Boulevard shrinking itself into a corner to stay out of the way. Chief amongst them was the Department of Health and Records' file on the Veneti girl; Domhnall pulled that over first with a mental command.

    He sighed, rubbing at his stubble, and looked at the ID photograph of Renza Veneti hanging in the air before him. Most of the file was nothing new; just an ordinary 14 year-old from the slumdocks, the only mildly interesting thing about her the blue hair that spoke of some distant Al-Hazerdian contaminants in her genetic history. She wasn't even a powerful mage, just an E-Ranker, a regular civilian who could support a Jacket and not much else. Studied Belkan history. Kept the Saint's Faith dutifully. Nothing stand-out or exceptional.

    He skimmed through what they had quickly; after the bio it was mostly just school records and attendance - odd number of hospital visits these past three months he noted; might mean trouble - before it went on to family history-

    He flinched. “Wait. Take a look at her parents.”

    Freiderike, disturbed by his reaction, pulled up her own display - Diarmuid had granted her access rights for convenience's sake - and skimmed it herself.

    “Sole guardian Ciardo Veneti, biological father; C-Rank mage, Myedoan style; dock worker. full time, Pasodine Shipyards.” The Belkan read aloud. “No surviving extended family, shoplifting charge when he was 13, no further criminal record. Small hut on the waterline...” she frowned, reading the address, “that's Tosca territory, isn't it.”

    Domhnall nodded.

    “Think he missed a protection payment?”

    “Keep reading.”

    “Mother died in childbirth... Jeanne Delgado?” She pulled back, trying to pull the thread of information at the back of her mind. “Delgado.” She tapped the table. “That name... where have I...”

    “The Economic District.” Domhnall supplied, watching Freiderike's eyes widen as the connection snapped into place.

    That Delgado? The conglomerate from Castilla? With the villa?”

    He nodded, bouncing mental commands to Diarmuid whilst switching and scrolling datascreens. “The same one. I just checked the family tree; Jeanne Delgado was the 16th in line as heir. Even Renza Veneti is listed, down in the hundreds.”

    “...Kaisers.”

    “Yeah.”

    Freiderike stared at the display in a whole new light. “...and they live in Tosca territory. Saint's mercy...”

    The Tosca. The Valezian Mob. Calling it a 'Mafia' implied too much class. Alongside the more mercenary Cosa Nostra, they were the biggest thorn in the Judiciary's side; part of what the organisation had been formed to break up in the first place.

    Valezorro had a... complicated cultural history. Founded by the Valezi, the original settlers from Al-Hazard that had terraformed Caglica and built Valezorro upwards and outwards from its collection of island chains back in the ancient era, it had just been another island-city, like the neighbouring Castilla and Chaomin; Domhnall's own hometown. Throughout most of Caglican history it remained fairly isolated; just another link in the equatorial chain; developing its own culture and dialect like they all did, holding even throughout the Dawn States era that put the planet under Galean control.

    And then the Warring States era happened, and some idiot detonated an ice cap.

    Immigrants and refugees flooded everywhere. The Saint's Church practically had to form their own de facto governments just to organise the relief effort; the early starting point for the now separate Calgican Governance. The TSAB arriving - something he still remembered, being ten at the time - was like a gift from the Kaisers themselves. Once the Ocean Crisis was resolved, Caglica could finally make the effort to modernise, leading to cities like Valezorro becoming even more multicultural with the rise of global transportation. And all that in a very condensed period of time, leaving some people with extremely ruffled feathers.

    Increasingly, elements of the unemployed and working classes had begun to form groups. Accusing all non-Valezi of stealing jobs and destroying their culture, the Tosca took to its self-appointed task of keeping Valezorro 'clean' with batons, protection rackets and nail bombs, and with a disturbing amount of support amongst the slum-docks and the unemployed.

    And if this girl was a bastard from a powerful Castillan clan...

    “...We have a racial motivation.” Freiderike concluded, having followed the same trail of logic. “Fuck.”

    Domhnall nodded. That had been pretty much his reaction. Not killing her made a little more sense in that light, at least, as well as going through all that trouble to pull it off. Nothing explained the office workers, but Diarmuid was running background checks as they spoke...

    “You think they're sending a message to the Delgado?” Freiderike asked.

    “It seems the most likely option. I'll contact the Director; it looks like we'll need to flush out some rats...”

    ~*~

    Ciardo Veneti drank. He drank so as to not think, to not worry about his injured daughter, so small in her hospital bed, his precious last piece of her, to not think of the medical bills that would rise even with the blessing of the Saint's Charity, to not think of his paycheck and how thin it would have to spread.

    He drank to not think about the man opposite him.

    “And the Judi seem to think we're responsible; white-washed traitors.” The man spat, greasy blue hair wild and rough. “You've paid your protection money, good and loyal. Those Delgado bastards are probably trying to sweep up their trash, quei figli di puttana.”

    Ciardo choked. “Don't...”

    Si, si.” The man waved him off. Every motion of his felt like a pulled spring; tense with anger, passion and a bitter, blinded rage that was held at bay, just for the moment. “Your daughter's no trash; is good girl. Probably good mother too. Those Castilli bastards won't care. Don't want a Valezi dirtying up their precious pictures, no? Probably sent the Judi up on us, miserable fucks.”

    Ciardo didn't think. Just nodded.

    “You've always been right by us, Ciar.” The man patted him on the shoulder. “You've always been loyal. We take care of our own.”

    The man pulled him close, made him see the fire and vengeance in his eyes and Ciardo desperately, desperately did not think. “We'll look after your daughter, camerata.”

    “The Tosca swears on that.”
    ggs, mdman1, Mysterius and 20 others like this.
  4. Ginger Maniac Subject to Gravity

    Well, this is looking to be an interesting cluster-fuck in the making.

    I can't see any technical issues with your writing, and I enjoyed the chapter, so I'll just say good work and please can we have some more in the near future?
  5. I, too, don't see any outstanding technical issues.

    What I especially like is the way you manage to succintly insert worldbuilding and characterization into the natural flow of the story.
    For example, dropping a couple of tidbits about someone and then expanding on that outline indirectly, such as using their word choice, rather than drowning the reader in descriptive paragraphs or, worse, weberesque infodumps.
    Impressive for a first try.

    Even though the story is mostly just setup at the moment, it looks like there are interesting times and many opportunities, in the chinese sense, ahead.
    Makes me curious, that does, about which things mentioned will become future plot points.

    I'll be waiting for more.
  6. Aku-dono May or may not update; shrödinger's author

    OK, this is interesting. Veeeery interesting. You've got a fine clusterfuck cooking up there, now it's all in the presentation, right?

    Well, I'm looking forward to it.
  7. TheSandman From NERV's Heart I Stab At Thee

    Well, looks like I've got another fic whose updates I can look forward to.

    And given that these are also pretty much your first posts here of any sort, welcome to Spacebattles. You don't have to be crazy to post here, you just have to be crazy to stay. :)
  8. AAAAAHHH THAT ITALIAN IS ATROCIOUS! IT BURNS! IT BURNS! MAKE IT STOP! Except for the "figli di puttana" bit, that is spot on and awesome.

    With that out of the way, this story is actually pretty interesting and well written. I especially like the fact that the protagonist is not a mary sue (makes bad tactical decisions, forgets a target and is incapacitated in the first fight scene we see? I respect you for that) and the worldbuilding. I love worldbuilding. I also read To The Stars, and it is indeed awesome.

    The plot is very interesting too, I look forward to the next chapter.

    But seriously, do something about that Italian, it sounds like an unholy fusion of Godfather movies and Google Translator...
    dragongod123 likes this.
  9. TheSandman From NERV's Heart I Stab At Thee

    I was wondering if it was Esperanto, actually.
  10. There are some bits in there (like the words the detective's device speaks) that aren't in Italian and could be esperanto, but I'm not sure.
  11. TheSandman From NERV's Heart I Stab At Thee

    I think the Device is speaking Gaelic.
    Sideral likes this.
  12. Uh, interesting. Thanks for the info.
  13. Exterminatus My Attorney-General Can't Be This Cute

    Heh Diarmuid, I wonder if Domhnall's cursed with the luck of the Irish?

    Other than that, nothing more to say than what has already been said. Although there was a bit of slight confusion with Governance (mainly since the main human polity in To the Stars is well... Governance); it's mainly the word choice that threw me off a bit but other than that I look forward to seeing more.
  14. Darik29 Here, have a Cookie!

    Well, This looks like its going to be suitably awesome. And I saw some German, when the nurse was talking to the Policia, I did.

    I'm guessing this is a world Post-Madokami? Seeing as Witches aren't around, and we have Demons instead.

    I'm honestly excited at where this is going. Keep up the good work!

    Also, anyone feel like going and telling Aleph she has her first official Fanfic of her own AU? It's a crossover, but its still based on Game Theory. And it's written pretty well, to boot.
  15. Oh my God.

    I love this!
  16. SolipsistSerpen Solipsist Serpent

    I'm a little surprised Kyubey needs to import a telepath. I was always under the impression he had some ability in the field (I certainly don't think he's speaking with his mouth) but on the other hand he wasn't able to scan Homura's mind, so perhaps not.

    But yes, otherwise excellent. Though, given the age of the Incubators I wouldn't be surprised if they had some back up plans for this kind of mess (even if it's "burn all human operatives in the area and erase just enough memories that there's a puzzling string of deaths that goes nowhere).
  17. Exterminatus My Attorney-General Can't Be This Cute

    Eh, the Incubators can be incredibly Laissez-Faire about the whole thing. They didn't really do anything in Asurano when the Pleiades were running around (or when their plan was going to hell) messing with their agents. The most they might do is to send in a girl with the necessary power and capability to restore things to status quo (or as close to it) but they're just as likely to go public if it benefits them.
  18. Re: The Italian; be advised that Valezi characters actually speak an Italian-derived dialect (Valezian) that I am making up as I go along, so there's no perfect back-translation. 'Monocultural' Caglicans speak either French or Italian (depends how much the Galean influences took root), Castillans speak Spanish (or will when they show up), and Domhnall's Device speaks Gaelic because he's from Chaomin (and hardly anyone else in Valezorro speaks it so it ensures private conversations; useful for an investigator). And yes, Belkan = German. I'm trying to use language as a cultural indicator here and yes google translate is involved I am terribly sorry.

    And yeah, the Incubators... well, it'll be explained later on anyway but Exterminatus is on the right track.
  19. Ragazza Magica Renza Veneti
    Chapter Two

    ~*~

    The gentle morning breeze wafted lazily through the bola's windows, carrying with it the salty tint of the sea and the crisp frizzle of grilled fish from the neighbouring huts. Renza shifted lazily on her pile of blankets; the smell breaking her out of her dream state; her Jacket in a simple nightwear configuration to keep her warm. Then the Device on her wrist began to ping, and all hopes of sleep blew out with the morning breeze. She drifted awake, bleary eyes opening to processing the scene.

    Hung opposite, her father snored in the colossal hammock hanging end to end. Made of an old ship's sail, she'd been told. Expensive stuff. One trunk-like arm dangled out to drag dust-trails on the hard stone floor. Even across the room, the man smelt cheaply of alcohol; his Jacket was still in its work configuration.

    He never went out drinking like that, except when he was worried.

    Renza sat up, already weary. The Kyubey's words still rattled inside her head.

    She'll be arriving in one week. Please make your decision before then.”

    He was worried about her, she knew. Editing his memories would certainly ease his pain. But she couldn't change being a Puella Magi; injuries had to be accepted as a fact of life. And with her wish...

    Well, this was the best things could be.

    Shaking her head to clear the traitorous thoughts and the last of the morning cobwebs, she rose. In an older time, she would have had to stagger, bleary eyed, to make her way to the communal shower, probably knocking her father awake in the process, but that was then.

    This was now.

    Silently and carefully, she padded barefoot under the massive hammock (her Jacket's fields protected her feet and softened the noise), mindful of the old man's need to sleep after a night like that. She took quick stock of the floor, spotted her bookbag, and managed to drag it out, completely silent, beneath the softly swaying hammock, manoeuvring it carefully past his dragging arm and into the light.

    Puella perks, she supposed. They made mornings actually habitable. Setting it at the open doorway so she could find it later, she took quick inventory of the rest of the bola.

    Windows; literally just holes in the wall, were set in each of the four walls, with the ocean to the door and the spires of Governance to the rear. The bola made for a haphazard, shamble of a mess in terms of organisation; her father's gigantic hammock took up most of the space, though he would take it down for washing once he awoke. Surrounding that in their one room of a house were all the things one needed for living; at the moment though Renza's main interest lay in the 'larder'; frozen racks of plain, greasy, paper-wrapped slabs; long and thin, tapering at both ends.

    Fish, in other words.

    She pulled out one of the smaller ones, defrosted it with the aid of her Device, and pulled a pair of knives down from their hooks on the wall. Filletting it expertly, she threw the skins, head and bone into the cold shill, intending to boil them for stock later. The knives went into the sink.

    Outside was bright and orange, and the wafting smell of morning risers with similar plans met her immediately. The grill pad was out in the open, under a tarp shelter in the wall for the rainy days. Her Device plugged into the side, her linker core took a sudden tug and up it went, orange and steaming. The fillets slapped down with a sizzle. A scattering of common herbs finished things off; they only took a few minutes.

    Once they were nice and steaming, she unplugged her Device and wrapped it back around her wrist. It was a simple, Governance-issued civilian thing, built mostly for children with 'survive the school of hard knocks' in mind. Kabupatenic, apparently, for all your chosen style of magic really mattered when you were an E-Rank, but their style of Devices had a reputation for being extremely hardy and difficult to damage, so she couldn't complain. With her father a Myedoan C-Rank, they could get away with having almost all the tools in the bola mana-operated.

    Which was good, because mana was free.

    She couldn't do or run everything in the bola herself; she just didn't have the reserves; but her father could, and in fact did; handling most of the tools whilst Renza saved her limited linker pool for when she needed it. It worked out fairly well, all told, and certainly saved them an awful lot of money they had no hope to spare. Governance didn't provide electricity out here; too expensive with all the safety requirements the water required. Flipping the fish with a pair of twisted sticks, she looked around to see who else was out this morning.

    Their bola was literally on the coastline, for as long as it took for it to expand again. A white-grey dried mud patty covering over a combination of scaffolding, provided by the Saint Church, and as many long sticks and supports the original builders could find, built square and squat, surrounded by a walkway of the same construction and kept above the water on high, high stilts. She hadn't been alive to see it constructed. Somewhere underneath their boat - a small, ancient watercutter - hung suspended on ropes. Hollow steps in the wall of bola, gouged out of the mud-plaster and well worn with use, lead up to the flat, open roof, which had a tent cover they could put up for rainy days, effectively turning it into a second storey.

    Out and about in their fellow bola (connected in an open maze of planks and walkways; no two were ever quite on the same level; all the slum-docks were a confused, colourful maze), the neighbourhood was waking up, greeting the morning, some taking the Saint's Prayer, others cooking, like her. The smell of grilling fish and the rising rancour of far-too-energetic children filled the air. She waved to their nearest neighbours, the twin sticks held in her mouth whilst she gathered plates from their storage crate.

    A low, brassy groan came from the back of the bola, and a pair of heavy footfalls faintly shook the grill pad on its stilts. Her father was up. Good timing.

    Buenavassi, ma padre.”

    She held out a plate of grilled fish. Her father stood blearily, stooped in the doorway, before finally cracking into a soft smile.

    Buenavessera, mia belle.”

    The man sat down with a creak of the ancient flakboarding, taking the plate and one of the twisted sticks when offered. He inhaled the sea air and aromas with a deep, rumbling breath, looking out across the sea. Renza was already picking through hers; scooping fish up in the twists with deft movements.

    For a few moments, they just ate, watching the birds. There were ships, of course (it was Valezorro; there were always ships), but the birds were more relaxing.

    “Will you be safe on your way to school, belle?” He asked, voice rumbling and quiet.

    Si, padre.” She said, focusing on her plate.

    “I don't want you travelling alone for a while, understand?”

    “It's alright; I'll be meeting Sam at the showers.”

    “Le Bien? Nn. Look out for yourself.”

    Si; don't worry, padre.”

    “I'll always worry.”

    She patted his giant arm.

    “I'll be alright, padre. I'm healing up fine.”

    Her father turned, horrified. “Mia belle, you were attacked...”

    Renza grimaced. “You don't know that! The Ispettore are investigating it-”

    “Renza...” the man breathed, hoarse. “Take this seriously! It's your life. Don't go risking it!”

    She swallowed. Setting down her empty plate, she stood and enveloped his trunk of a neck in as tight a hug as she could manage.

    It was only when he sat down she could even reach his head.

    “I am, padre. It's okay. It was just an accident, and I'm fine! You're worrying yourself too much!”

    The man rumbled, but relented in her arms, the sagging release actually lowering his shoulders a few centimeteres. She ran fingers through his tangled, coare flint hair, pushing her head into his craggy, wheatherbeaten shoulder.

    “It'll be okay, padre. Trust me.”

    ~*~

    The 'showers' were less a communal shower, more a water purifier connected directly to the oceans sloshing below with a bunch of taps and piping bolted on, hidden behind masses of plasterwork and tiles. The Caglican Governance had always invested greatly in its water treatment services; with the aid of the Saint Church, they were readily available as a public good. Each cubicle essentially just a spout mounted high in the wall, set in a private alcove covered with a thick weaved curtain for privacy. Too high for her to actually reach, but the systems were mana activated anyway. Useless if you were one of the few unlucky ones with no mage rank at all, but cheaper, and even an E-Rank like her could use it. And faith, people could always ask; it wasn't like they were ever empty.

    Though Jackets served as highly responsive day-to-day wear, it was still recommended people have something physical on underneath, should the worst happen. It wouldn't show through whatever you set the Jacket to, so general consensus was either something practical and warm or something that would stand out in an emergency - or of course both. It wasn't mandatory, just very, very strongly encouraged. They could save your life, so the pamphlets said.

    More cynically, she knew, they helped EMTs identify the dead and critically injured at a scene.

    In Renza's case it was a pair of Governance-issued, Saint's Church produced survival trousers and a thick, heavy overcoat, both bright orange and baggy in that 'one size fits most people' way, with reflective bands strategically placed so that most of them would be catching the light at any one time. It looked completely hideous and stuck out like a sore thumb, but then that was the point. After deactivating her Jacket, she had to fight her way out of that too so she could actually shower.

    She stepped out again five minutes later running a rag through her hair, Jacket back on in its uniform setting. The rich, regal designs of the Basso Trari upper secondary school uniform - a dark, olive-green blazer and skirt combination - looked horrifically out of place amongst the drab whites and dusty curtains of the public bath.

    Another person wearing the same uniform jumped out from the stall behind.

    “Morning, Ren!”

    She turned, smiling already.

    Buenavassi, Sam!”

    Samara Le Bien grinned, water-slick hair slapping about her face as she took her by the hand.

    “Shall we?”

    Renza collected her book-bag. “Mhm!”

    ~*~

    A local comune bus ferried them to the Basso Trari's gates, skiffing around between the bola until it had collected most of the other local girls whose parents could gather the coin for their tuition. Too long to travel just by watercutter and no-one owned a barca; comunes like this were funded by the Saint's Church. As was, for that matter, their positions in the Basso Trari itself; part of their fees and supply costs waived on the Saint's Charity in recognition of educational merit; a scholarship, in other words.

    Somewhat inevitably, her group was nicknamed the Saint's Children. Opinions varied.

    But Renza didn't mind. There was a reason she'd held off her prayer in the morning; they held them here in the Trari instead. Even Samara, who didn't see the point of it all, was still grateful to the Church.

    The comune dropped them all off at the Water Gate in the gardens, a few fellow students and staff already waiting. She spotted Odette waiting at the side looking prim and proper... who actually did a double take when she realised it was them under all the drenched hair.

    “W-What happened to you two, did you fall over the side?” She asked, fussing at Samara's blazer after helping pull them up onto the dock.

    “Yes!” Said Samara immediately, before Renza could stomp her foot.

    Odette sighed wearily. “Well... try not to next time; I'll dry you off before la Sorelle find you.”

    A glowing green triangle formed around the Belkan's hand as she prepared to cast a minor spell, only to be interrupted when Renza raised a hand.

    “We didn't actually fall off.”

    Odette hung her head. “...I'd guessed that. Hold still anyway. Sengenden Winde.

    Renza obliged, and was met with a warm rush of air blasting across her face, the triangular spell-cast spinning into a circular green-glowing blur. Any remaining water blew away or dissipated, the facial barriers of her Jacket protecting her skin from any potential burns. Odette wasn't putting any power into it anyway.

    A low powered combat spell thrown out casually as a hair-dryer. Such were the convenience of C-Rank mage-knight cadets.

    The rest of the crowd weren't paying them much attention. Though the comune had a deployable ramp for such purposes already extended (and, in addition, multiple signs stressing the usage of said ramp even the driver was ignoring), somewhere along the lines it had just become tradition to pull up the new arrivals when they reached the Gates.

    Probably symbolic, or something.

    In either case, the gathering was filled with greetings, consternations, 'how do you do's, friends pulling up friends, the usual hair readjustments necessitated after an open-topped comune ride, the supervising Sorella making sure no-one was swapping their homework, the desperate trying to get away with it anyway...

    A usual start for a usual day.

    The blast of air cut off and Odette lowered her hand, the spell-cast fading away. The back of her head still felt faintly damp, but Renza was hardly about to complain.

    “All done!” Odette said smiling. “Shall we?”

    Samara stepped in, head still vaguely resembling a wet mop. “Wait, what about me?”

    Odette huffed. “You can go swim the canals you lying girl!”

    “Eeeeh?!”

    Renza giggled. “Let's go!”

    Eeeeh?!

    ~*~

    The morning service was as usual; the High Sister making typically ordinary faculty announcements before diverging onto social and religious topics. The central lecture theatre was tall and airy, a bright, well lit dome with shafts of sunlight playing in through the high windows. It was actually a little confusing, once you started paying attention to it; for some season, they only ever illuminated the centre stage. Renza, who'd been up there once on Puella business, knew the secret, but wasn't completely sure how she'd ever get away with telling it given there was no ground access. It wasn't quite as simple as holographics...

    And yes, that meant the ceiling of the dome could only be cleaned by fliers. Back when the building was constructed, it was an intentional sign of prestige... and now, punishment for misbehaving air cadets. Of which there were five; the teachers doling out extra punishments for them just to keep the thing tidy had become something of a running joke.

    Sitting in-between Odette and a freshly scolded (and dried; Odi had relented after a few minutes) Samara, she and the rest of the girls of the Basso Trari's current 9th Year classes sat at attention on the third level of seats ringing the central podium. Not alone; the entire stadium was filled, with the younger classes at the bottom and the elder rising higher.

    “...And I hope,” spoke the High Sister, closing off her lecture on one of the older Streben-Kaisers, “that all of you will go through with your day with the Mercy of Vollständigkeit in your hearts, and pay due respect in All Things.”

    The auditorium stood, and bowed, the room echoing with the clamour and thousands of voices reciting in tandem. "Within one world we are born as stardust, and though worth and improvement, we join Vollständigkeit to be born again as stars."

    A little too far away for it to be visible, the High Sister smiled. “Then get to your lessons, all of you. And have a good day.”

    They managed to find each other after the shuffle and chaos of filtering out into the side corridors, and made their way to First Session, Samara dancing ahead with unpredictable movements whilst Renza and Odette maintained a steady, refined pace.

    “Maan, I'm glad that's over!” Sam exclaimed. “There's so many of those bloodstained oldie farts; how are we supposed to keep track of them all?!”

    “When anyone asks,” Odette advised saintly, “smile and nod.”

    “Easy for you to say Miss Belkan Heritage; I can barely pronounce half their names!”

    “The Streben are important!” Renza held up a placating hand, trying to stave off a full-blown Samara rant where the Sorella might hear her. “They symbolise a lot of things.”

    “Oh?” She huffed. “What was this one then?”

    Renza replied without missing a beat. “Saxa I, Streben-Kaiser of Explorers. She lead the first Great Expansion of Ancient Belka in 084 P.A. She's commonly associated with exploration and discovery and ships' navigators, particularly on the border worlds.”

    Samara froze, boggling. “...How do you do that. Seriously.”

    “She pays attention, Sam.” Odette giggled.

    Renza shrugged. “The High Sister does a piece on her every year; Saxa's pretty popular amongst educators.”

    Samara's expression turned suddenly predatory. “Oh yaaah? What's this, little Ren has been hitting the books, has she?”

    “Eh-?” Renza asked, missing a step.

    “Look at you, racing on ahead without me!” Samara pounced, the walk to class abandoned in favour of attacking her smaller classmate's head. “But I'm not going to let you go that easy!”

    “-Uwah!”

    With dignity and grace, Odette rubbed her temples and quietly looked out the window. My, she hadn't noticed how nice the weather was today...

    “S-Sam, stop it-”

    “All that refined language, it's like you're trying to be a princess~!”

    Was that a bird?

    “S-Samara!”

    “Hahaha! But little do you realise, you have no-one to impress but me! For you see, Ren is going to be my wiiii-”

    “What a surprise! Two of the Saint's Children, acting like kids and forgetting their manners.” A voice cut through, laden with scorn, arrogance and a distinct lack of actual surprise. Odette suppressed a groan. Oh joy, she knew who that had to be-

    “Hey!” Samara accused, as Renza fell silent. “What's that supposed to mean?!”

    Penne Lovelace sniffed dismissively, her golden curls bouncing with the movement, not even giving them any further attention. Instead, she had turned to Odette.

    “Miss Camarr,” she began imperiously, “as I have told you before, you should not associate with such common lunacy. I cannot begin to imagine what your parents must think.”

    “As I can believe,” Odette replied, giving a stoic Belkan half-bow, “considering I have their full support.”

    Also known as 'Fuck You', for the lucky ones that didn't have to speak Rich. Technically true too; her family had met Samara and Renza in person before. Not for very long and Renza did all the talking but still. The twitch in Lovelace's eye was entirely worth it.

    The haughty girl huffed, to no-one's surprise, flicking her hair and sweeping on past, clearly finding nothing here worth sparing her attentions upon. Odette watched her leave mostly to avoid looking at the face Samara was pulling. Laughing at a Lovelace's back was a bad idea.

    “Um...” Renza began, breaking the silence. “We should probably get to class...”

    There was a brief bit of mostly ladylike cursing as the other two checked their chronometers, and began rushing down the hallway.

    In an entirely elegant fashion.

    ~*~

    As was tradition amongst all schoolchildren when one of them comes back from hospital, Renza got swamped immediately on her arrival; fellow schoolgirls crowding around her desk despite Samara and Odette's half-hearted attempt at a protective cordon.

    “Say say, Veneti, are you really okay?”

    “I'm fine!” Renza replied, trying to follow several conversations at once. “It was just an accident-”

    Another girl, tall and richer with ambiguously Caglican features looked naïvely horrified. “Y-You mean you weren't attacked by gangs?”

    “I- what? No-”

    Yet another leaned in over her desk. “Yeah, what even happened anyway; these two won't tell us anything!”

    (Odette rolled her eyes.)

    “It was an accident! Some people found me so-”

    A hand slammed down, two solid rings rattling on the desk surface, leading to an arm, leading to a tall, wiry frame and a face, Castillan, framed with slate hair cut pragmatically short. Renza blinked. The face she knew but the name kept stubbornly out of reach; hiding on the tip of her tongue.

    “Ah-”...

    Amber eyes watched her with a mix of suspicion, wariness and an odd degree of scorn. The girl leaned forward. Finally, something clicked; Natalie Pincette, another of the Saint's Children. But she lived on the other side of town closer to Castilla what was she-

    “Are you sure it's wise, coming all the way out here?” The girl asked softly, commanding silence from the rest of the group.

    Renza stared at her in genuine confusion.

    “I... what do you mean?”

    Natalie held her gaze for a few moments, clearly searching for something in her face. It didn't last long though before she gave an almost inaudible huff and stalked off... just in time, as it turned out, for the Sorella to arrive and start the Session. Renza blinked as the taller girl left, the crowd forced to disperse before anyone else could ask questions.

    What had that been about?

    She shook her head and tried to concentrate, pulling out her textbook and setting it to the appropriate page.

    ~*~

    The First Session passed as normal - Galean Literature; at the moment the works of Venier the Great. Renza didn't really have time to dwell on the oddities of the morning; Venier at least was genuinely interesting, and his works fun to pick apart even if you'd read them before. By the Second however, her attention began to lag. Advanced Matrices was never her strong suit. E-Rank.

    It just didn't come naturally, and she found the concepts hard to grip on, as other things began to swirl from her subconscious.

    As the Sorella covered the basics of perspective and isometric projection, Renza set down her stylus, eyes unfocused on the textbook in front of her.

    This is your life! Don't go risking it!”

    ...Things were getting out of hand, weren't they? Daemons. The Puella. Her wish...

    It was like trying to balance on an infinite array of tipping boards; like building a house of cards on a rocking boat. If she fought, she would put herself at risk and worry her father; if she did not, all of Valezorro could be in danger. Yet she didn't want to hurt him; couldn't hurt him, if any of this was going to be worth anything. If she focused on her studies, she could exhaust herself and people could die because she wasn't there to save them; if she did not, she could lose her place at the Trari and how could she ever explain that?

    She'd been holding it back but... it was just getting too big to ignore.

    Her life as a Puella and her life as a human being; both were increasingly at odds. How was she supposed to handle all this alone? Her life after this? Exams, getting a job? The future?

    And... well, she could die, couldn't she? She'd almost died. That couldn't be ignored, not even before this incident, no matter how hard she tried. She could die and her father would break and...

    Her head swam, as the classroom faded away. She managed to catch herself before her head hit her own desk.

    Sitting alone in the middle of a class, Renza kept still as the world slipped back into focus. The Sorella, discussing homogenous space. The textbook, displaying the wrong page. Odette, giving her an odd look. Everything felt real; everything felt here and now.

    Everything here was immediate; she had to concentrate on it.

    She picked up her stylus and flicked to the right page. She was a schoolgirl right now; that's how she should behave.

    ...She needed talk to Roche. Roche always helped.

    ~*~

    They'd sat their barca on the roof of an office block, the Judiciary vehicle temporarily displaying civilian markings. Valezorro didn't have many spaces for air-landings, given the low percentage of drivers that could take advantage of them, but Governance still encouraged their use anyway; it freed up surface-level spots for the lower rankers, and the requirements to make a barca fly in the first place were expected to drop as the technology improved. Neither of them were actually at the point for complete flight, but Freiderike had enough power for it in small bursts. That the Judiciary got the latest in barca technology was always a plus.

    Domhnall sighed, scanning faces in the crowds with a weary sense of lethargy.

    “So what did Director Pascal say?” Freiderike asked from the driver's seat.

    He shrugged. “Observe and wait, basically.”

    Freiderike, for her part, was lazing on the steering wheel. The person they were observing had gone inside and wasn't expected out for at least a few hours; not particularly inspiring attentiveness in the two Ispettore more used to fieldwork than subject tailing. And, to be frank, upper secondary schools just weren't that interesting.

    “That's it?”

    “He wants to keep things off the records until we know what's going on. Information security.”

    Since anyone else tailing the schoolgirl in question would almost certainly be under cover somewhere unless they were a complete idiot, their observation was essentially a waiting game. Wait for Renza Veneti to exit the nest, and see what predators followed her.

    Their office block was at the apex of the point formed by the Trari's two landlocked faces. From here, they could watch both Land Gates simultaneously. Best possible position. Still boring. The third and final Gate, on the other side of the building, was the Water Gate, by which they highly doubted anyone would exit by, though Diarmuid was managing a small flock of drones over there anyway. The Trari actually rose up higher than the stubby office block they were sat on, blocking most of Valezorro from view and leaving them with an exciting display of stone, stone and more stone. All the gardens where on the opposite Water face for irrigation purposes.

    “Almost lunch break, isn't it?” Freiderike asked the air.

    Domhnall grunted. “Diarmuid?”

    [Cúig nóiméad agus daichead is seacht soicind, mo Rí]

    “Five minutes.” He translated unecessarily.

    Freiderike sighed. “Think she'll make an appearance?”

    “No. The Trari has its own canteen. Given what's happened I'd doubt she'd want to spend her lunch breaks in the city any more.”

    That had been an odd thing to find out from the staff. As of three months ago, she'd started leaving the premises on most breaks. It wasn't against the rules as long as you weren't late back, but it was still generally frowned on to do it to excess with no good reason, which Miss Veneti seemed to lack.

    The more they'd looked, the more 'three months ago' seemed to be cropping up a lot around the Veneti girl. Diarmuid had flagged it almost immediately, of course, but a simple reading of the data in person was enough to make it stand out. As much as he didn't particularly feel need the need to pry into her circumstances, it was just one of those things too obvious for an investigator to miss.

    It also felt a little too familiar, but he tried not to dwell on that.

    And, well, all the points were just too disparate to really mean anything. There was clear evidence something happened back then, but what it was or what it meant was beyond him. It didn't fit any of the usual profiles for child behaviour - or at least, the kind of behaviour the Judiciary had to pay attention to - so he didn't really know what to make of it. Mercy, maybe she just got a boyfriend; probably a smart one given the jump in her grades. The increased incidence in hospital visits was worrying though; all injuries, never sick. Even her drunkard of a father had noticed that. Almost worth pinging a message to the Church over, but not quite yet. If it was the Tosca, the Church wouldn't be able to do much anyway.

    Lost in his musings, he almost missed it when Diarmuid emitted a tinny little beep. The accompanying telepathic kick was hard enough though.

    Freiderike stared.

    [Feicim Iníon Veneti, mo Rí.]

    Over the South Gate, Diarmuid projected a small mental triangle, zooming in to generate its own window, better displaying the features of one Renza Veneti walking out onto the boulevard without a care in the world.

    Domhnall stared. “...What.”

    The moment crashed between them; the sheer impossible stupidity of seeing Renza Veneti leaving the safety of the Basso Trari and walking away like a regular, ordinary pedestrian and not a young bastard heiress being shot at by the mob. She wasn't even watching the streets; she was looking straight ahead, that sort of dream-ish autopilot look, like she had far greater, far more important concerns than being a Castillan bastard hunted by the mob.

    Freiderike releasing the land brake kicked things quickly back into gear.

    “Drop me off in that alley and I'll tail on foot.” He ordered quickly. “Follow her by air and try to get an idea where she's going; use the drones as you need. Diarmuid? Follow her orders. Ping the Order of the Watch for a tapping request on Veneti's Device.”

    He detached the bulky black box from his forearm and passed it over; Freiderike snapping it to her glove-Device with a familiar clunk.

    [Sea, mo Rí.] Diarmuid said, after the transfer.

    Their barca hummed to life with a squealing whir; Freiderike dumping mana into the anti-grav pods to make the car rise and float sideways off the roof, dropping down into the side alley in a carefully controlled descent. Domhnall dropped out of the side as soon as they were low enough, and the barca 'whummed', releasing a faintly audible burst of mana as its pilot kicked the anti-grav into pushing it back up to the sky. He didn't watch it go; Freiderike knew what she was doing.

    Switching his Jacket over to something inconspicuous, he hustled out of the alleyway onto the boulevard, hoping for a glimpse of blue hair somewhere up ahead.

    ~*~

    Going hunting again, Renza?”

    She didn't bother shaking her head, just sent a 'no' back in response. She had no idea where the little Incubator was after all.

    I'm visiting a friend.”

    The response was a non-judgemental telepathic 'hmm'. She wasn't quite sure how that worked.

    Why, are there more Daemons around?”

    None that I am aware of.”

    She spotted the shadow of a creature on the rooftop of an opposite building, staring down at- oh wait no that was an actual cat. Running off chasing birds. This time she really did shake her head.

    Where are you anyway?”

    Trailing the Ispettore.”

    She blinked, weaving past a man pushing a pram. “Oh, how's that going?”

    Problematic. They have split up; one is in their barca, the other is following you on foot.”

    She tripped.

    Wait, they WHAT?!”

    They have split up; one is-”

    Why didn't you tell me sooner!?”

    She could almost imagine it tilting its head in fake curiosity. “About what?”

    That I'm being followed of course!”

    You never asked-”

    Now she wished she knew where it was just so she could strangle the damn thing.

    ~*~

    Sitting in the back seat of a barca jumping from rooftop to rooftop in short, controlled bursts whilst failing to parse the stream of furious multilingual telepathic cursing passing through its head, the Incubator reflected on how it didn't really understand humans.

    ~*~

    Passing a father pushing his pram, Domhnall played the innocent Chaoim tourist gawking at all the Valezian architecture whilst watching Renza Veneti stumble for a moment. Leg injuries were always a pain.

    Of more interest was the pair of stocky men, their Jackets passing them off as delivery workers, who were also walking this road. Compared to Veneti's half-distracted wandering (must have been a telepathic conversation; he really wished those tapping requests went through faster), these two moved with a purposeful but even gait, matching hers perfectly. Freiderike had flagged them from the air and Diarmuid had confirmed they were originally sitting in a café until the very moment Veneti appeared.

    Sweet Kaisers, were they amateurs. Blue hair screamed 'Valezi' too; he barely needed Diarmuid's background reference check to tell they were Tosca.

    Veneti you really are a complete, inattentive idiot...

    Domhn,” Freiderike came through on mage telepathy, “the tapping request came through. We've identified the tails as well; one of them is wanted for questioning regarding a robbery case.

    Perfect,” he sent back, “tie them up.

    My pleasure.


    ~*~

    Barcas landing in the middle of a pedestrian zone were not a common sight. Well, barcas landing in the first place generally wasn't common, given the low ratio of flight-capable barcas to sufficiently powerful mages. Even so, it happened enough on cheap crime dramas for everyone to tell it was a Judiciary intervention before Freiderike had even displayed the colours. A barca landing in front of you had just become social code for 'Hi, you are being stopped by the Policia'. Especially when they seated four.

    That the two deliverymen looked more confused at this than anything else was a curious sign. Interesting; this might actually go peacefully for once.

    She kept her glove-Devices on anyway.

    “Excuse me, would one of you be Markis DeLamont?”

    The obvious answer was 'yes', or they wouldn't have been pulled over, but hey. Politeness.

    The man on the right raised his hand, looking a little bewildered. Freiderike took pity and offered an easy grin.

    “We just need to ask you a few questions about a robbery in your area, if you'd be so kind?”

    ~*~

    Renza watched with the rest of the crowd. Barcas landing in a pedestrian zone always disturbed her; not for the Judiciary thing but that creeping possibility they might one day land on someone.

    Sure, it hadn't happened yet, but they'd only started being able to fly in her lifetime and that... wasn't saying a lot. No-one had ever quite expected it. Or, for that matter, fully figured out what to do with it.

    Kyubey, what's going on?”

    I can't say. It appears to be political or otherwise related to law enforcement.”

    ...Well, fair enough, she couldn't make sense of it either. The poor Incubator probably didn't stand a chance. Was this how the Judiciary normally operated...?

    ...Do you think they want to ask me questions off the record?”

    I wouldn't know.”

    She watched the barca, now flying the Judicial colours, lift off and start hopping back in the direction of the Judicial District. Part of her wondered how popular the vehicles would be if the ancient Valezians had been fond of slanted roofs.

    ...I guess it was just coincidence then.”

    Renza put the event out of her mind, and headed for the nearest café. She had something to do, after all.

    ~*~

    Huh. Domhnall hadn't pegged her as a crepes lover.

    He followed anyway.

    ~*~

    One thing she had never known about before was that the Basso Trari kept tabs on its students' devices during school hours. Apparently it was a legal right of educational institutions or else it would have been listed in the student guidebook. Either way, one of the things she'd had to handle after that slightly disastrous battle on the boulevard was the faculty asking about her Device deactivating during the period she'd been in the Barrier.

    She'd passed them along to the Ispettore, of course. Claiming they'd have a better idea than she did.

    In truth, she wasn't fully sure what caused that. Certainly 'Linker Magic', as she'd come to call it, seemed to fail in the Daemon Barriers but the only real source of information on that had been Kyubey, and Kyubey's explanations were always... spotty. Confusing. Daemon Barriers were completely different from the Mid-Childean kind which was rather obvious really, but.

    ...How had it put it again?

    The 'Linker' field of Barrier spells existed to temporarily time-shift everything with a certain magical signature. Under the legislation of the Time and Space Administration Bureau, all magic was strictly non-lethal, and Barriers served to allow high-rank mages to operate to their full potential without fear of collateral damage. It was a Military / Police thing.

    She'd never been in one herself. All she'd seen on the TVs was they made everything turn dull and grey. Frankly they looked a little boring; crime dramas always spruced them up a little.

    The Barriers Daemons formed however were a completely different matter, primarily on account of them being completely insane. Daemon Barriers were something to do with 'creating an environment suitable for Daemons', or that was how the Incubators put it. Daemons could be spawned from any natural outpouring of grief or despair in the world. Miasma was something similar; the stuff Barriers condensed out of. All Daemons leaked it; it was how they tracked them. Put enough of it together and a Barrier would form and start invisibly distorting the world.

    Which formed more Daemons.

    Which could rapidly get out of control.

    Which is why she had to keep up the patrols, because really Valezorro was just too large for one Magical Girl.

    Either way, the Daemon Barriers shut down Linker magic. Which meant Devices failed. The conditions inside them were intended to leave ordinary humans in a confused stupor; easy prey. Only Puella Magi were immune; apparently some could even keep their Linker magic inside them - it depended, as always, on the wish.

    Renza had never really paid attention to it. E-Rank. Her Puella transformation disappeared her Device to begin with, which effectively 'deactivated' it for obvious reasons. Only now the faculty were going back through their records and asking a few awkward questions. So she'd had to come up with a way of hiding it when she had to 'go Puella' on school time.

    The solution, when she'd hit on it, was rather obvious. Just take the thing off and leave it somewhere clandestine. She wasn't supposed to be able to do that (they normally registered when you took them off, for exactly the same reason she was doing it), but hey. Contract perks.

    An indoor café and some duct tape later, and her Device was neatly hidden on the underside of a table. It helped it was only the size of a large watch after all. Then all she had to do was head to the toilets and slip out of the window.

    ~*~

    Well, they're in for processing. Management'll probably have to let the second one go; we've nothing to actually book him on.”

    Domhnall leaned back in his seat - a creaky wicker thing - pretending to be reading something on a mental Device projection. It was a pretty common expression on tourists looking up maps, day plans or just random curiosities. It also meant the serving staff would wait until he'd 'finished', which made things less confusing when coordinating with Freiderike wherever she was in the city.

    One's enough; it's a starting point. Anything from Diarmuid?”

    One second-” There was a pause, presumably as Freiderike consulted the borrowed Device. Telepathy wasn't audio after all, so it was just silence to him. “No. Nothing on drones. What about your end?”

    Domhnall sighed.

    Followed her into a café. Want anything?”

    Fred hmm'd. “They do any pastries?”

    The Belkan kind.” The Boredom was starting to creep back in again. The rest of the cafe-goers looked completely ordinary, no-one else sat at Renza's table, no-one had followed them in (so far) and equally no-one had followed her into the toilets. Not a lot to go on. “Look a little average though.”

    Eh, probably still beat the station cafeteria. I'll take two.”

    Two it is.”

    I'll be back about half an hour. Sodding paperwork”

    Domh smirked. “Don't break the penpushers.”

    Freiderike laughed bitterly through the connection in a way that made him feel terribly sorry for anyone on the other end. Slumping forward, he dropped the 'look' and waved a hand, signalling the staff. Since Veneti was apparently just taking her lunch break as a lunch break, he couldn't see much point in not getting some himself.

    ~*~

    Vaulting the rooftops of the Commercial District and heading into the centre, Renza took advantage of her natural speed. It was the fastest route and probably the best disguise too; people on the streets wouldn't get much more than a blur and fliers were pretty common around here. She even passed a few who waved hello (probably; kind of hard to tell). Her Puella outfit didn't stand out that much in the world of configurable Jackets and she was travelling too fast to be ID'd; she probably just looked like an off-duty duty air cadet. She kept up her momentum as the heights of the buildings steadily rose; her target never out of sight on the Valezorro skyline.

    The Basilica Vaillieu had been built in a cross configuration; the immense central tower - visible from all of Valezorro back in the Dawn States - and four grand halls. Each hall was wide enough to fit in several marketplaces if anyone was willing to try, and long enough to require underpasses being constructed several centuries ago to prevent traffic interruptions; the Office of Transportation and the Saint Church were constantly batting heads about expanding them to accommodate larger modern craft and more lanes for barca. Their steeply pitched roofs, dated all the way back to its original construction, rose up several stories all on their own, meaning the spires on the regular supporting buttresses couldn't be seen on one side from the other.

    The target spire in question was not particularly noteworthy. The sixteenth spire from the tower to the end of the Western Hall on the left hand side; it had nothing to set it apart from all the others, just a regular, stone and tile, old-Belkan needle. Whilst the tower was cleaned regularly, the Hall spires were only passed over once a year, mostly to check for structural defects, and on a predictable schedule; there were just too many of them for the Church to realistically do anything more. So far they'd yet to find what it made it special, and she knew when she would need to move it for a few days when the time came. Or maybe they'd see it and leave it be; she wasn't going to risk it finding out.

    The spires of the Halls were actually their own miniature towers; an ancient holdover from the Church's early leanings (not many remembered the Basilica used to be a fortress and the Church never took pains to remind people). The old shutters had long since been removed and the ways in from the Halls sealed centuries ago, turning what once would have been a hidden sentry post into nothing more than decoration and a nesting place for birds. They'd learnt to avoid this one though; the room smelt cool, clear and dry; more of dust, rain and stone than anything else. She'd run out of the old perfume.

    It wasn't much of a shrine, but she knew the one it was dedicated to do wouldn't want anything more.

    Renza slipped in silently through the room's only opening; the ancient, worn down viewing slit. The only route to this abandoned sentry hole was either by flight or through reinforced acrobatics that should only be possible to an A- or extremely high B- Rank mage in the first place... or by the application of hook, rope and a whole lot of patience and time. Thus, the Church considered the old watchtowers closed to vagrants; those of the organisation that even knew they were there.

    The Church had never heard of Puella Magi.

    A small pile of blankets took up one side of the room, cold, ragged and stiff with age. They reached from one end of the room to the other easily; the sentry-hole was a space smaller even than her bola; barely larger than a closet at the Basso Trari. They were still more comfortable to sit on than the stonework floor.

    Faded blankets aside, the majority of colour in the space came from the window - where Valezorro continued its hustle and bustle under the golden light of noon - and the small but carefully chosen collection of trinkets. Not too many; their owner never knew when they'd all need to be collected and thrown together into the mass of blankets so she could find a new place to sleep during the day, though maybe they would have increased given the security of this little find.

    Taken individually, each one made very little sense.

    An old clock - actually mechanical; some old Galean thing made from copper and brass - probably worth a small fortune to collectors if it wasn't so miserably battered and broken. It pointed the time with its hands rather than simply telling you on request, and Renza was pretty sure it was supposed to have two instead of only one, slightly crooked in the middle. It was frozen permanently just past 'IX' and she didn't know how to make it turn itself again.

    A small collection of stones and precious metals; rubies mostly, she'd always had a thing for that colour. Earrings, patterned beads, random stones that just caught her eye one day. And then there was the actual jewellery, which had to have been lifted from somewhere. Renza had never asked. These pieces had always been the most transient; most likely to be left behind. Or, for that matter, sold. Puella had to eat, too, and stealing wasn't exactly 100% reliable.

    Tassels; strips of cloth dyed red and blue, bearing prayers in Belkan script inked on both sides then wrapped together into a rope and hung from above on hooks they'd hammered into the ceiling. The Belkan was scratchy, but serviceable, and Renza had had to help with the grammar in places but their prayers were well meant. Requests to Elisabet II, the Streben-Kaiser of Victory, for aid, and - naturally - pleas to the Sankt-Kaiser Olivie, the Mercy of Vollständigkeit, for her wisdom and peace. These had been a relatively new addition; the origin of the ink and strips was plainly obvious. She'd asked Renza to get them after all.

    Probably the most plain looking and yet also most memorable was the battered old box - black, probably covered in felt once - taking up an entire corner. It contained a cheap, frankly tacky tea set, the sort the markets hawked to tourists during the summer season, and was a considerable pain to haul around whenever their owner had to move. It had been that girl's favourite possession, and she'd never left it behind. Kaisers, Renza had offered to get her a new one once and she'd been outright affronted.

    The room would have contained more, at one time; mostly food and money; but for now, this was what it was. Apart from a few extra tassels dangling from the ceiling - blacks and whites this time; using the blues and reds just didn't feel right - the only addition was a framed photograph. It sat atop the old black box next to a small silver casket, barely larger than a snuffbox.

    The photograph was cheap, but the frame wasn't. She'd had to go through some lengths to get it. To say nothing of the casket; that silver was genuine.

    Elbows on knees and chin in hands, Renza sat and gazed at the picture, looking back at the memory frozen in time.

    They'd gotten a passing tourist to take it; it'd been hilarious. A wonderful trick. Poor old guy had absolutely no idea what to make of them; one a young girl in Caglican Blue, hair and all, her costume peppered with white lace, grinning and posing for the camera with a undersized zweihander axe that looked too real and gleamed too brightly to be a shrunken down replica of a museum piece; the other taller, with vaguely Castillan features, dressed in blazing yellow; a tomboyish bolero and white cravat over a black undershirt that somehow managed to work despite being patently ridiculous. How that hat had always stayed on Renza never knew; she wished she could have saved the feather. Whilst Renza's axe was smaller than it should have been, the arbalest the yellow girl posed with was almost comically too large.

    (She summoned smaller ones in day to day life, of course; it had just been funny at the time).

    Renza sat, smiling sadly, as the tassels clinked in the faint breeze.

    Ich hatt' einen Kameraden, einen bessern findst du nit.

    She sighed after finishing the prayer.

    “Made any stars yet, Roche?”

    She shifted uncomfortably on the stiff fabric.

    “I'm doing fine; Valezorro's surviving with just me. Kyubey says he might have a few new contracts lined up; I'll try to teach them well. Won't let them do all the dumb things I did back then... I. I... screwed up a bit earlier; if you saw it, you'd probably scold me. There was only fourteen of them and I ended up in the Serenità again; I'm alright now... but I've worried everyone.” She giggled. “Kyubey is even having to call in a subcontractor to clean things up. You always said you wanted to meet one!”

    Renza slumped down, hugging her knees.

    “Odi and Sam are alright; they still remember you, you know. My father's worried though and I'm not... sure how to deal with it. I... I'm brushing it off as best I can and I don't want him to worry but...”

    She looked up at the hard, flat picture. The glass frame shone in the afternoon light.

    “...this is going to keep happening, isn't it?”

    She dropped her head.

    “This is going to keep happening, and I'm going to keep worrying them and...”

    She shivered.

    “I'll a find a way. I can make it somehow, I'm sure. It's what everyone would want after all. It's just... I don't know how... I don't know if I can tell him or...”

    She pumped her fist.

    “I'll keep fighting though! I will protect this city! I'll keep fighting; I'll get better and I won't get hurt again, you'll see! Kyubey will find some new girls to take the slack, it's just a bit busy right now!”

    She laughed.

    “So don't worry, Roche. It'll be alright.”

    Smiling at the picture and silver casket set atop that battered old box, she rose, dusting herself off gracefully. One foot on the watch-step, she paused half-way through squeezing through the view slit; looking back into the room - significantly darker now she blocked most of the sunlight. She smiled at it anyway.

    “See you in the stars.”

    And then she was gone.

    ~*~

    She'd managed to dry her face before she slipped back into the toilets.

    ~*~

    ...Something wasn't right about this.

    Freiderike, what's the location on Veneti's Device?”

    Still in the café; why?”

    Something he should have spotted earlier, stupid stupid-

    She went straight into the toilets and hasn't come out since. Never even ordered.”

    There was a pause, before Freiderike's response came back sounding distinctly unnerved. “She's still in the café according to the tap. Device is still on too.”

    Old memories; old tricks. He shouldn't have forgotten about this. “Is it moving?”

    ...No. One second.”

    There was a lull, probably Diar- “Diarmuid says the signal hasn't moved at all since she entered.”

    No-one ever suspects the schoolgirls.

    Domhnall stood.

    Now what?”

    Have Diarmuid deploy drones; search the surrounding area. How close are you?”

    Two minutes ETA.”

    He walked across to the table the Veneti girl had sat at. Still unnocuppied, not that that mattered. A quick glance at the underside revealed a bulky black shape. It pulled away with the rip of packing tape.

    I have her Device.” He told Freiderike. His partner's response was about what he'd expected.

    What the fuck is this girl playing at?!”

    No idea.” Probably.

    You want me to put up a General Order? I can-”

    Hold that.”

    Renza Veneti stood staring at him in the doorway.

    She's right here.”
  20. Darik29 Here, have a Cookie!

    It Livvesss!

    Huzzah!

    And we see that our intrepid Puella is about to get into a World of trouble!

    This story is gettingbetter and better! I can't wait for the next chapter!
  21. Aleph Solidarity

    ... well. Someone's in trouble.

    I meant to comment on this story before, but by the time I got round to it the thread had receded somewhat into the mists of dormancy, and I didn't want to reawaken it without just cause. Still, I'm glad my worldbuilding is going to good use, and I am intrigued and delighted about the uses to which it has been put in this particular instance. So now that it's active again, in roughly reverse order...

    - Nice trick with the Device under the table - canny indeed - but sadly, it obviously didn't work, and she's going to have to do some serious fast-talking to explain herself now. The sub-contractor may find the situation rather out of control (and I wondered about Incubators/dimensions for a bit before realising that duh, they probably just followed humans when they went into D-space, and that's how they're in all of them - that, or they pre-date Earth by enough that when they followed humans through they met the other Incubator factions, and were like "yo").

    - Roche. Interesting. Presumably the Mami to Renza's figurative Madoka. It appears she met a nasty end somehow, possibly killed, possibly Valhalla'd. My money is on killed, though I can't quite put my finger on what gives me that impression. From the description, I thought she was Mami for a second, but the arbalest clued me in that she wasn't - I didn't pay enough attention to the description, and it was the yellow and the little hat that threw me off for a second. Her shrine is beautiful, and an achingly sad memorial to a girl who almost certainly died far, far too young.

    - The stuff about the different types of barriers is cool. I like it, it gives a nice flavour to the different types of magic. And I agree that Witch-barriers are far too cool to let go like that.

    - I very much like Domhnall and Freiderike. They have a nice sense of professionalism, countered by the fact that they're dealing with a total OCP here. The fact that they think that she's being hunted by the mob is equally fun - that snip where Domhnall is mentally chewing her out for... what was it? Yeah, "walking away like a regular, ordinary pedestrian and not a young bastard heiress being shot at by the mob." That was almost as hilarious as the following curses that Renza flung at QB for not informing her of her tail sooner. "You never asked", heh. Oh, Incubators.

    - Natalie's message... interesting. Very interesting. One possibility is that she's implying that she knows about Renza's activities as a Puella Magi, which would be... fun. Alternatively, she may be talking about something entirely different - the "young bastard heiress" thing, perhaps? Whatever it is, it's likely to come up again. I'll be watching with interest.

    - The Saint Church stuff is neat - I liked that little "reborn as stardust" amen, hee hee. Saxa I is cool too, it's nice to see some of the Streben-Kaisers being fleshed out some. The other thing that I loved was the "wear emergency gear under your Jacket" thing. That is a wonderful idea, and I am wholeheartedly stealing it for the canon Gamesverse, consider it affirmed. Thank you very much indeed for that. Mwaa haa, outsourcing worldbuilding is a good idea, I shall profit greatly from this.

    - And finally, regarding the first scene, I liked it a lot. You paint the city well, it really gives a vivid and evocative sense of the setting the story is taking place in - I could almost see the places as you described them, hear the waves and smell the sea salt in the air. You have a gift for imagery, and you've obviously spent time building this beaten-up old city. It has a lovely Italian feel to it, and a gorgeous air of the Dimensional-Space-Third-World about it in the little things like how they don't get electricity and so power their stuff with mana, and are sort of ramshackle and patched together in where they're living. Very nice indeed.

    All in all, I'm enjoying this a lot so far, and I look forward to seeing more. Here's hoping that Renza can talk her way out of trouble in the next chapter.
  22. Mortifer Solidarity

    Absolutely heartbreaking scene about Roche.
    I'm going to go find something funny and/or action-y so I don't feel sad anymore. It always works. With one exception [PMMM Episode 10.]
  23. 75% Certain 25% Expressing Solidarity

    Having followed both Game Theory and TTS with no small amount of devotion, I have to say that you're off to a strong start. Aleph has generally put things far better than I could, but I wholeheartedly agree with her conclusions; your knack for description is on par with Aleph and Hieronym at their best, and your characterization comes across very clearly and effortlessly. My one bit of constructive criticism deals with the constant name-dropping of various obscure locations, factions, and technology. I don't want to leave you with the impression that I'm against it because I am in fact very much in favor of the practice, but it would be helpful if there was some sort of glossary or index for reference purposes.
  24. Undead-Spaceman Skeleton Supreme

    The fact that this doesn't seem to have gotten more attention is downright criminal. The world building is great, right up there with Aleph and ES in detail, it really feels like an actual place. Renza is also a good character, you really got the feel of a girl whose really starting to realize just how many problems her new double-life is going to giving her.

    One thing does confuse though, Freiderike's silent cursing at Renza for acting normal while mob hitmen might be after her; has he not considered that she might not be aware of her heritage or is it just plain frustration at the amount of danger she's putting herself in without realizing?
    Wander likes this.
  25. 75% Certain 25% Expressing Solidarity

    I believe that he's working under the assumption that she remembers more about the attack than she admits.
    Wander likes this.

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