Heavy footsteps drummed over the pavement in ominous beats. It was the only sound that broke the silence of these dark streets and it reigned supreme in this hell lined with the yellow embers of street lamps. The youth stalked this labyrinth, hungry and lusting for the high of battle. Her prey was here somewhere, hiding amidst the shadows. She could feel hate seeping through the concrete walls and melting through the steel meshes that lined the back streets.
The anger in the air tasted so achingly familiar.
Tainaka Ritsu stopped as she entered a small and secluded intersection with only an arrogant and cruel grin visible under her hood. She pulled her hands out of her jacket's pockets, clenching her toughened fists and rolling her shoulders in anticipation for the fight to come. Yes, she found her query, that unfamiliar girl basking under the nightlights of this damp street.
The stranger's smaller and slighter stature stood still as she stared unemotionally to the east, to the direction of a shining beacon atop the hill over yonder. Her ill-intent was only shown by the sinister grin on her face that was barely visible over the high collar of her own stylized hood, as if she was imagining the mayhem she wished to drop over the Victorian Mansion that stood out so much in the landscape. There was an interesting malice in the girl's expression as well, a violence that exhilarated malevolent spectator so much.
This kid was promising, to be sure, but she would be the judge.
Weaklings were not allowed in this city.
"You have guts showing up in my part of town, kid." Expressive yet treacherous amber glistened in contained madness as the taller girl stepped into the light of a street post. The unnatural rays that rained down upon her created an even blacker shadow, exemplifying that she was a true denizen of darkness. Indeed, Ritsu had patrolled these streets for years, seeking for the adrenaline of destruction.
After all, it was that very same addiction that got her into this war game.
The other girl did not even flinch even though the ochre-haired teen had arrogantly barked for her attention. She merely glanced at the latter from the corner of her eyes while keeping an accusatory gaze. Her sinister expression was replaced by a stoic frown however, displeased that Ritsu had interrupted her morbid fantasies.
?" The girl turned towards her adversary, revealing muted hazel eyes and choppy russet locks under the white-lined hood.
" Ritsu raised her face under the light so that her own hood's shadow covered the top half of her face, while her unique Cheshire grin only grew wider in amusement and crazed bloodlust. "So you know. That makes introductions unnecessary now, doesn't it!"
The ochre-haired girl swayed forward and charged towards the younger girl, her fist poised to deliver a jaw-crushing blow to her opponent. Black chains crawled from under the sleeves during her run, creeping around her forearms and wrapping themselves around her bandaged knuckles. Armed, she used her momentum and weight to throw a punch that could easily fracture much larger and robust jawbones that this girl could possibly have.
Yet, the younger looking teen merely blocked it with a black gloved hand.
Ritsu's eyes widened for a fraction of a second before she was thrown to the side on a collision course with a concrete building. The force was tremendous, enough dent the stone structure, and had it not been for pitch black magical chains coiled around her body, she would have been crushed in one fell swoop. The clear danger of this engagement did not dissuade her though, and if anything, it only made her blood rise to the occasion.
It made her feel alive.
She snickered manically as she stood up from the rubble, wiping the blood from the corner of her lips. A length of chain loosened around her head and neck, freeing her of its protective confines, before disappearing in harlequin green ether. Her shoulders shook in mirth as more links around her body disintegrated into nothingness, gleeful at the pain that wrecked her numbed being.
"Finally, a Master who doesn't hide behind her fucking Servant," Ritsu's hood fell over her shoulders as she took cocky steps out of the mess she had been thrown in. Short and spiky ochre hair seemed to bristle in her excitement after they have been freed of their confines, giving her the wild appearance of a lion ready to feed. She then licked her bloodied lip once she was only a few paces away from her enemy and tilted her head to the side, getting rid of her neck's stiffness with a gratifying crack. "I almost don't want to kill you."
The girl with cold hazel eyes turned to properly face her, but that coldness was promptly replaced by a crazed expression bordering fear and homicidal delight. "Kill me, you say?" The enemy Master chuckled viciously, "you're just another one of them, aren't you? Hehe, I will crush you. I'm not helpless anymore!"
"Then try!" Ritsu roared and charged at the same time as her opponent, fearless of the latter's insane strength. She had been prepared to fight freaks like these the moment she summoned her Servant, and just the feeling of fighting unnaturally strong opponents excited her to the point of giddiness.
Her adversary pulled a fist back, intent on punching her skull in, but brute strength was pointless when delivered poorly. Used to battling hand-to-hand, the ochre-haired girl expertly swerved away from the sledgehammer blow and released her own strike, a metal reinforced drive to the stomach. It winded the shorter Master, allowing Ritsu to drop her interlaced knuckles on the former's back. She then took advantage of her opponent's momentary stagger to loop a chain around hooded girl's neck and then pulled as hard as she could in order to choke her. She even kicked down upon her back to add force.
But this brief victory only lasted for mere seconds.
The enemy Master gripped the chain and forcefully snapped it with her bare hands. She immediately lashed at Ritsu, who barely managed to jump back before she was smashed, then shakily straightened herself. Seeing that her enemy still struggled with the pain brought by her earlier blow, the ochre-haired girl wasted no time in dodging forceful yet clumsy attacks in order to land her own punches where it counted. Chained fists delivered bruising jabs to the russet-haired girl's temple, chest, and collar bone, while metal reinforced kicks stomped on her unguarded back.
"Graah, stop moving!" The hazel-eyed girl snarled as she threw another blind punch, like a wounded animal defending itself from its predator.
On the other hand, the said predator only evaded and observed in vicious amusement.
"You're a lousy fighter," Ritsu spat out as she twirled a length of chain before she brutally slapped it at the shorter girl's face just to spite her, "and here I thought I'd have more fun with you. Feh
you're just another weakling. What kind of Servant do you have? The Coward?"
Quivers of rage and indignity shook the shorter girl, but she still stood up regardless. She held her head down, hiding her contorted face with her hood, while her fists trembled in a chaotic deluge of unbridled fury or paralyzing fear. This behavior did not perturb Ritsu though.
It only made her smirk sadistically.
Maybe this little girl had more fight in her. That crazy strength must have come from an interesting Spirit.
As expected, the hazel-eyed Master charged at her again in an attempt to land one fatal blow, but Ritsu continued to dodge efficiently. She even used the nearby lamp post to absorb the brutal attack. The towering structure bended under the force of her adversary's power, as if it was not made of steel but malleable clay. The shorter girl saw opportunity in her brief episode of astonishment and tried to uppercut her, a maneuver that even the more experienced fighters have trouble avoiding. Had that blow landed, her head might have been snapped off her shoulder.
Angered, Ritsu quickly looped a magical chain around the girl's monstrously powerful limb and then tossed the other end of the loop around the latter's neck, thinking that maybe the girl would essentially kill herself. It was not how she usually dealt with her opponents but the curiosity was too tempting not to try.
It would be so damn fun to see this thrashing whelp break her own neck.
The smaller girl struggled with the thicker and more powerful chains that grew tighter and tighter the more she pulled. The pain, and maybe even fear of being so trapped, almost made her cry out pathetically. To Ritsu's delight, however, she had more pride than that.
Proud enough not to cry, but cowardly enough to call for her hidden Servant.
The amber-eyed girl jumped away from her still chained opponent, preparing herself to face whatever abomination that would come out from the shadows. The surroundings suddenly felt so silent again that only her heartbeats and the minute growls from the other Master filled the void. Soon though, ominous footsteps thudded over the pavement, as well as the tell-tale clanking of metal against metal.
A red light flickered from the fog that had suddenly engulfed the vicinity. Ritsu heard the sound of metal boots rasping over rough asphalt. She glanced at the Master near her, who was practically choking herself with the black chain, before returning her piercing eyes to the source of the beastly noises. More steps came and she could see a bright scarlet ribbon floating in the air even though there was no breeze. Instead, the accessory flowed as if it was underwater, waving capriciously along with a dark blue cape that revealed itself as the presence drew closer.
" Berserker groaned as its silver armor reflected the dimmed street lights. Metal covered the Servant's body from its cruel-looking half-helmet, thick pauldrons and gauntlets, to the shimmering iridescent scaled greaves. Sky blue hair could be seen where its helmet jaggedly ended midway over its head. This strange imperfection also showed a clearly identifiable femininity in the Servant's face, like a tortured and despairing girl trapped in this extravagant iron maiden from which she could only cry and gutturally moan out her pain.
In spite of the heavy looking armor, the blue-haired Berserker moved quicker than Ritsu thought was physically possible given its potential weight. She dashed towards her Master and used one of her over-sized blades to rip the chain as if it was only thread. The tiny girl coughed and gasped for air as the Servant turned her attention towards the person who had assaulted the one she was contracted to.
"So this is Berserker, huh?" Amber eyes examined the famed powerhouse and intrepidly gazed into the mismatched and distorted gaze of the armored Servant. "Heh, she's right
I should have gotten you instead."
Berserker roared in fury even though the sound was muffled by the helmet's mouth guard, making it sound like a groan from the undead.
"Kill her!" The Master with hazel eyes commanded after she had regained her composure.
Ritsu readied herself as she watched the Servant prepare for an attack. Berserker waved her blades slowly, exaggeratedly, but her footwork was faster than the amber-eyed girl could possibly anticipate. Still, she held her ground, daringly facing a magical being without care.
She already knew that she would never allow herself to run.
Especially not when she was having so much fun!
Before Berserker could tear her asunder by the large saber she wielded, a large three-pronged sword landed in front of Ritsu, shielding her fragile human body from the onslaught of blades that crashed onto it just a moment afterwards. Knowing the source of her fearsome weapon, Ritsu braced herself behind the strong steel from the abyss as she gritted her teeth because Berserker did not show any signs of stopping the barrage.
The amber-eyed Master laughed in delight of this violence, even though the pavement crackled and sparked due to the repeated hits. And in spite of her shredded and her arms being cut by the remnants of Berserker's slashes, Ritsu watched in glee the anger present in Berserker's blue eye.
Yes, despise me so I may return your hate tenfold!
A playful chuckle then whispered into her ear, "You know you want to call me."
"Why would I want to do that?"
Powerful residual magic slipped through the three-pronged sword and sliced at Ritsu's cheek, etching a red line that cried blood.
"Because, my dearest Master," the voice was affectionate, even disgustingly sweet, but it was also glaringly poisonous like a seductive snake that tempted her to take a bite of a cursed apple. A playful tongue then languidly licked the cut on her cheek before it chuckled hotly, "you will die if you don't."
The presence flickered out of Ritsu's senses before Berserker dislodged the sword she had been using to block her crazed barrage. With a single swing, the blue-haired Servant sent her flying down the street. Though the force was great, the amber-eyed Master still managed to twist in midair and drive the blade down in the pavement, anchoring herself so she would not collide with a building or a concrete wall.
The moment her feet hit the ground, Ritsu immediately saw Berserker's Master dashing towards her, mouth grinning in furious mania and fist held back to crush the competition. She mirrored the madness in the other girl's eyes as she pulled the sword out of its earthly sheathe and changed its form with a dormant magic she had yet to completely master. The blade distorted and shortened while its handle lengthened and joined with the chains that were wrapped around her hand, turning it from a sword to a chain scythe clawed by three sharp prongs.
She quickly sent the heavy ball end flying towards her nearing opponent, aimed so that the chain would coil around the strong girl's arm, but the enemy Master merely slapped it away, smashing it thorough a brick wall. Ritsu clucked her tongue in annoyance and charged head on toward her opponent, ducking under that monstrous punch and butting her adversary's head to stun her.
If she could not catch this girl and contain her for her own amusement, then she might as well dismember her here.
However, before she could even wield the scythe end of her weapon and slit the shorter Master's throat, the ground shook under her feet. She spied something heavy and huge approaching her from behind the smaller girl, and after squinting, she made it out to be a giant cartwheel rolling at high velocity. Two others followed it, colliding and running over anything and everything that was left out on the street. The sides of buildings were shaved off while walls and lampposts were leveled in their wake.
Call me, Ricchan~
Knowing that she would not be able to avoid the large projectiles, Ritsu roared loudly over the thunderous behemoths' noise.
A black abyssal shadow jumped out of the darkness outlined with an eerie harlequin green glow. It raced towards the rolling projectile like a hellish flame until a sharp viridian light sliced through the first wheel, parting it down the middle so cleanly that it only stumbled down the road moments after it was cut. The shadow settled in the middle of the road, where it took the form of a large skull on which a girl with curly black hair and obsidian horns sat with a menacing scythe draped over her shoulder. The skull mistress wore a sleeveless shirt that displayed her midriff and a tie that had a star embellished on it. Her forearms were pitch black and ended in sharp claws, making her look like a demon that came from the fiery depths of hell.
Despite of her possible origins however, there was only a relaxed coolness in her harlequin green eyes and her slightly curved lips.
Caster hopped down from her familiar's head and calmly waited for the two other wheels to draw close. Then with a simple gesture, she waved her scythe horizontally, sending a green blade of magic down the middle of those wheels and cutting them as she did with the first one. But unlike the first localized assault, this attack reaped through the nearby infrastructure as well.
And now that they were no longer rooted by their foundations, the surrounding buildings rumbled and shook as they slid down like well-oiled blocks.
Screams of panic reverberated in the atmosphere as the people in the buildings scrambled to save their pitiful lives, but their efforts were for naught because the juggernauts that fought in this arena did not care for casualties. This city was their playground, their sandbox, where they fought for dominance to win the grand prize, an artifact called the Holy Grail that could fulfill any of the champion's desires.
But who needed that, when she was already basking in what she wanted?
Stories of structures toppled down, roaring like pained Atlas, and shook the city to its very core. Dust and debris fanned out over the roads, blinding the Masters and Servants that have caused the devastation. Persons from nearby buildings promptly left their shelters, horrified by the spectacle, and ran away screaming like pathetic cowards.
Did they not see how beautiful destruction was?
Amber eyes saw broken bodies serving as mortar to the great blocks of rubble that now littered the streets. Concrete and steel boulders were painted red by dismembered limbs and torn half bodies like gruesome abstracts. But was there fluid to cleanse this vermillion smears? No, not a chance in hell.
Blood was the perfect permanent paint.
Impressed by her Servant's display of power, Ritsu was caught off-guard by Berserker's Master, who had immediately recovered from the collateral damage and slugged her out of her reverie. Fortunately, she had half the mind to block the punch with protective chains before it crashed to her, so instead of being snapped in two, she was just thrown against an intact building. The ochre-haired Master inwardly thanked the magic within her that she has yet to fully understand, for it had instinctively commanded the remnants of Caster's chains around her body to serve as her armor once again. Winded and pained, she barely managed to roll away from the other Master's subsequently assault, which sent a shockwave through the building's structure and cracked it face as if it was fragile glass.
Indeed this girl was a monster like her.
Ritsu picked herself up before the russet-haired girl could pull her arm out of the shock crater and punched the girl on the base of the spine with her left fist and then on the face with her right. She continued this barrage with no remorse, only a desperate desire to quench her lust for violence. Unfortunately, her prey did not satisfy her for the smaller girl did not cry out in pain or fear. She merely growled and roared in unfathomable anger and hate.
With her arms tired, Ritsu side-kicked her enemy's neck, which dislodged the trapped girl from the concrete's hold. Berserker's Master dropped on the rubble-lined sidewalk, bruised and battered yet silent. It was only moments later that a sound came out of the girl's cracked lips.
It was a sickening giggle, one pealed by a toddler playing with her toys.
"Heh," the taller teen chuckled hollowly, "you can still laugh after all that?"
Hazel eyes peered from under the dirty hood, "your punches don't even hurt."
Instead of being insulted, Ritsu only laughed out loud even though the actions wrought pain over her body. The chains must have extensively bruised her that she was actually feeling hurt. It was a rare treat for someone so apathetic to physical pain and, she supposed, she should be thankful that most of her body was still intact.
"You can't even land a punch." She taunted back.
The other Master stiffly stood up, grinning manically, "I'll squash you like those insects under the rubble. People like you
"You keep saying that," Caster's Master spat bloodied saliva to the ground and wiped her cheek with her jacket's sleeve, "but you have yet to deliver. But whatever
" She took her stance again, "let's level this place until only one of us is standing."
In that very moment, the piles of debris exploded as Berserker rammed through in order to fight the Servant who had stopped her summoned wheels. Water washed underneath her hovering form now, following her like glistening mercury as she swam in thin air with her long iridescent tail that reflected all the colors of a psychedelic coral reef. She was like a giant mermaid from a sailor's worst nightmare, large and powerful, with an aura as dark as the ocean abyss floating around her like an ominous fog.
Ritsu heard that guttural roar again as the blue-haired Servant pointed her sword at Caster as if to issue a challenge. Moments of quiet befell all combatants until thundering horns bellowed in the night. And to the ochre-haired girl's surprise, freight trains smashed through the debris. The magically summoned locomotives did not run over rails however, instead Berserker commanded their destinies.
And the powerful beast had judged that Caster must be destroyed.
The said Servant frowned but remained static.
"Kuro, Doku," She spoke curtly, and her two giant skull familiars shot from their station at her side. The large, nearly indestructible craniums plowed through the trains, pushing them back and even flattened the heavy metal locomotives with gut churning crunches.
Pleased, Caster began to nonchalantly walk towards the incarnation of insanity, and as she did so, the ground she walked on glowed pale green. The glowing footsteps then merged into a single mouth that steadily opened, ripping world barriers. From the crevasse, skeleton soldiers clad in armor or rugged cloaks immerged to fight for their mistress. Their hollow mouths echoed the moans and cries of the dead as they marched into the world of the living.
They threw projectiles at the armored mermaid while the larger members of the horde strode forward to challenge her sword. The defensive metal around Berserker protected her from most attacks and she made easy work of the warriors that came too close, but the numbers of the undead quickly swelled and the Servant soon found herself crowded by skeletons, cloths, and weapons. Daggers and swords were stabbed wherever her armor was at its weakest, while spears and arrows impaled her less protected tail. The Mermaid struggled, roared, and destroyed many in her wake, but for each skeleton warrior she shatters, two emerge as replacements until the ruined city block was crawling with Caster's minions.
Even Berserker's Master was not spared by this onslaught, and Ritsu watched as the girl fought her Servant's summons with little effect. The fragile skeletons were easy enough to smash with the girl's kind of strength but it was only a matter of time until even she was overwhelmed.
"Oi, Skull Lady!" She called for her Servant, who was perch atop one of her pet skulls, "call off your zombies! They're interfering with my fight!"
Caster smiled at her and chuckled in a playful yet sultry way, "Oh, Ricchan, the more she tires, the easier it is for you to defeat her, yes?"
Ritsu snarled angrily, "That is not what I want! I'll defeat her with my own"
A sudden foreign movement caught her eye. A long stretch of yellow ribbons lined the perimeter of the ruined city block until its ends met just behind Berserker. Gradually the scenery distorted and mutated right in front of her very eyes. The setting of destruction was replaced by abstract patterns akin to lovely tapestries, with daisies, butterfly wings, and dried leaves decorating its splendor. The night's darkness was illuminated by magical light as well, as if they were suddenly shoved into a warmly lit room. The pungent musk of the underworld melted away and was replaced by an enchanting aroma of calming brews.
"What the hell is going on?" Caster's Master whirled around as she watched her very world change.
"A barrier, hmm?" The Necromancer thought aloud as she landed beside the amber-eyed girl. "Looks like we have another player in our midst~"
Ritsu snorted as she strained to find another presence aside from their opponents who were still fighting the undead left over before this strange world was erected.
But no matter, she thought, the more players the better.
Growling, she demanded, "Show yourself!"
"You have done enough, Master-san, Caster-san
" an amiable voice greeted them. Both Master and Servant whipped their gazes up towards an abnormally tall table, perhaps an accessory of this made up world, and saw a blonde girl sitting with her legs crossed. On her lap was a saucer with a teacup on it and a pink plushie that looked so out of place in this vicious atmosphere.
"Who are you?" Ritsu stepped forward, unsure whether this girl was a Master or a Servant.
The blonde with drill-styled hair only continued to smile.
Then with an elegant swipe of her hand, hundreds of muskets materialized out of thin air, hovering just underneath where she stood, and the pink plushie suddenly prove itself to be alive by jumping down from its perch.
The ochre-haired girl watched the pink dot drop from such a high place and gaped when it ruptured, revealing a gigantic cartoony worm with massive jaws about to sweep down at her.
"This fight is over."
Golden tea rippled in its cup even though the table was completely still. Its steam wisped upwards, snaking and twisting, until it kissed pink lips that smiled tranquilly.
Outside the adjacent window, a translucent bronze dome capped a part of the large city, its surface whirling in enchantment. Baby blue eyes watched the intricately patterned arena glow and spark, made alive by fireworks exploding within.
"Kyouko-chan ate my strawberry~"
"Whaaaat? You ate all the cake already!"
"But but, I was saving that for last!"
"You are too~"
Kotobuki Tsumugi shifted her gaze from the ethereal presentation outside her window to her friends. Her eyes twinkled in mirth and fondness before she stood from her seat.
The mayhem outside the walls of her home was pushed aside to be forgotten.