Author's Note: I combined chapters 52 and 53 because I accidentally deleted chapter 53. That, and there's an announcement after this post. Just don't question anything. It's complicated.


52

Even as Eterna screamed while she fell, her eyes to the sky, she felt something caught her back, cushioning her landing. The impact was still jarring, but it could have been worse. She looked back, and to her surprise, was met with the stare of Nick's dark brown eyes. "Nick?" She felt his knees behind her back.

"I… I thought I heard you," Nick answered. A moment earlier, he had literally caught her in his lap, what with his hand tied behind his back.

And Escheria interrupted them, landing with a 'thwack'. "Ow… I'm okay, I have nothing to break!" came her muffled voice.

As chunks of masonry rained and a dust cloud rose, Eterna stared at him. "It's really you again, huh?"

"Just… returning the favor," Nick answered hesitantly.

Escheria got up, standing shakily. "I'm okay!" Then she caught sight of both of them. "Eterna, you're heavy, you know, get off him!"

And at that moment, Calcio got out between the row of pillars. "Whoo, you caught a pretty girl! Well done, boy!" He gave a thumbs up sign, showing a very wide and toothy smile.

But they were forgetting the big spherical bot that caused the crumbling explosion in the first place. It turned around, flexing arms wrapped in thick, twined wires.

"Nicky-hoo!" Calcio told him, the grin still remaining, "Let's show some manliness, shall we?"

"Pardon me, Eterna," Nick got up, even as she got on her feet. She frowned, noticing that he was blushing. "I… we'll deal with this. You two get a head start."

"You two FOUGHT?" Escheria asked in disbelief.

"Maybe not this big guy, but we dispatched a team of forty guards," Nick answered, feeling his neck burning for some reason.

This time, Eterna's eyes looked downwards, even as Nick ran ahead, Calcio at his tail. Calcio yelled like crazy, capturing the bot's attention as the two climbed up the wall of the hedge maze.

"Watch out! There's still a bunch of guards in the maze!" Escheria yelled.

Like gigantic shears, the knifed ends of the bot's arms easily cut through walls and walls of plant matter.

"Nick! The guards got Rin!" Eterna called out after him.

"Gotcha!" Nick replied, perched shakily on the hedge wall. "They're escaping! I see her!" He jumped aside. Thrash! The knifed arm missed him by one foot before retracting. The arm made a second attempt to hit him, but this time, even as Nick rolled aside, Calcio sent a kick on the arm's underside, deflecting it, but not appearing to harm it.

"Ow… my foot," mumbled Calcio.

"That's a Mega Gardener!" Nick bellowed. "One arm weighs five tons!"

"That explains it, tee hee," Calcio rolled aside as the arm returned. It broke through three hedge walls at once.

Nick stood on the maze's edge, wobbling while keeping his balance. "Wait for it, wait for it," he mumbled. Just as the bot's swiveling eye focused on him, he leapt off the hedge and bowed, raising the handcuffed hands behind him.

There was a clang, and with a cry, Nick was thrown backwards, collapsing a hedge wall.

Calcio was quick to get to his side. "Nicky! Did it got you?"

Nick was pale and shaken. He got his arms out from behind his back.

"Dancing mother of Sirena!" Calcio exhaled in amazement.

"I'm free," Nick told him. His handcuffs were broken by the blade. It was a very close shave.

"How did you pull that one?" Calcio asked hoarsely.

At the moment, Nick felt like he could fly. Ha! My hands are free again! "I'll explain later!" He ran in the bot's direction, conscious of the eye following him. An arm shot at him, and he leapt backwards mid-run, avoiding the blade narrowly. Lucky it's not so intelligent. And to the amazement of onlookers, he stepped lightly on the back of the blade onto the arm and just as it rose, putting his arms around the bot's, he slid down it onto the bot's body and sent a devastating kick on its eye. It cracked and its red glow went out. He proceeded by climbing up the spherical body and up the top.

There, he saw the guards in the vast hedge maze. They were trying to find the way out in a very machine-like way, that is, by mechanically trying every way that presented itself. Unlike his initial guess, they were uncoordinated, each guard going by trial and error by himself, as if oblivious to paths that other guards had tried. And he saw that one of them had a girl in orange slung over his back, the orange on white in the sea of green being quite obvious.

But the bot was not yet defeated. Its sight lost, it then rolled haphazardly, limbs flailing, nearly throwing him away. Damn! If it picks up speed then I'm a goner.

And it did, flattening guards and hedge walls like a steamroller. But Nick survived that due to one crazy decision: he clung to the cracked eye, which revealed a gaping hole with wires poking out.

Nick knew that he would feel the guilt later, having known that the guards were innocent, being controlled by their suits. They won't survive being flattened by this fifty-ton bloke. But he was holding on for dear life, the world a blur around him. He won't flatten his own eye, riiiiiiiii-eyyeee-iiight?

And in the blinding blur, he heard a girly shriek, just as the bot flattened something orange underneath.

It crunched.


"Let us use your computer!" Shika shouted at the office employee hiding under the desk. "Tell us the password!"

"You can tell them later that we forced you…" Emiya said in a sweet voice, her face close to the frightened man's.

"Okay, okay, it's Rustin Beaver! No space, all in capital letters!" he answered.

"Gotcha…!" Emiya commented, still in the same sweetened tone.

"What?" Shika made a disgusted face.

"Rustin Beaver, right," Albert Rosengach keyed in the letters, one eye always on the door. "Defendants… what's your name again?"

"Emiya Silmarius and Shika Paschal!" Shika shouted to him.

"Wait, you're Emiya Silmarius?" Albert exclaimed in disbelief.

Emiya actually kicked Shika's shins. "Ow!"

"I told you not to tell him my name…" she growled. "Yes, yes I am. I know you're in good terms with my great-grandma Enma, but I don't trust you. I don't like that demon-hag, but she told me to be careful of you."

"But, but I need to protect you! Here!" Albert unfolded the paper he brought with him, his gaze still fixed on the screen.

'DO NOT STOP THE CONFERENCE, OR NICK HAYASAKI, ETERNA HAZENBACH, SHIKA PASCHAL AND EMIYA SILMARIUS WILL BE KILLED TODAY'

"Now tell me, what did Enma tell you about suspecting me?" Albert asked, exasperated.

"Not much, just that she's been suspecting members of the Council for quite a while already. Not that I did not suspect her at all!" Emiya replied, throwing away all pretenses of pleasantry.

"You're right to," Albert answered. "I feel the same, especially these past few days. I know that nothing I say would convince you, so I'll prove it with my actions. Ah, there!" he pointed at the screen. "The evidence is stored on level 8. That's pretty close to your hearing place, right?"

"The Tele Pads are still working, I presume?" Emiya inquired hastily.

"If left undamaged," Shika answered.

"We're all taking risks here," Albert added. "A little teleportation shouldn't be too risky."

Emiya frowned. They were lucky not to meet any group of guards on their way here, but she was sure their luck wouldn't last.

There was the whir of machinery, and paper slipped out of a slot in the table. It showed directions to the evidence storage.

"Can you find the code to unlock these handcuffs?" Emiya asked in a sudden burst of idea.

"Negative! I don't have the authorization!" came the voice under the desk.

"Yeah," Albert affirmed, frowning, just as the screen flashed red, the words 'ACCESS DENIED' dominating it. "Let's go!" He gave the cue, grasping the paper. He was biting his lip. Twisting the knob, he was soon out of the office, followed by the girls, sword in one hand, paper in another.

The closest Teleportation Pad was at the end of the long corridor they were in. The corridor only had doors along it, and in one place, a series of windows made of glass panels stretching from the floor to the ceiling on one side. The way seemed clear, so much that they felt uneasiness rise inside them.

They were right.

There was a flash, and a squad of guards appeared on the Pad, just having teleported from somewhere else and piled on top of one another in a mess of tangled limbs. Emiya estimated that there were fifteen of them. They scrambled onto their feet, and charged at them. The foremost guard was having a blonde girl in orange jumpsuit slung on one shoulder.

"It's Rin!" Shika exclaimed.

"High Councilor Albert Rosengach, I demand you stay here and dispatch them. That girl is our friend!" Emiya ordered curtly.

"Right…" Albert replied in a tired voice, fixing his wide-brimmed hat. He then stepped forward, brandishing his sword.

They met at the corridor's midpoint, and just as Albert's sword swiped through the foremost guard's suit, all fifteen guards and the girl that was supposed to be Rin disintegrated into sand-like particles.

"Wait, so that's not the real Rin, right?" Shika asked, eyes widening.

And the sand-like material reformed, becoming the vague shape of a boulder, and hit Albert with great force, throwing him into the glass panels to his right. A great crash resounded, just as he fell out and his cry of shock grew faint.

"Run for it, Shika! RUN!" Emiya barked hastily. She knew it was their only chance, even if it actually meant going over a friend's sacrifice.

Stupid! It was making sure that his sacrifice was not in vain, dammit! Emiya thought as she and Shika passed in front of the gaping window, feeling the howling highland wind blow through it, a moment before the boulder returned through the gap, this time morphing into countless sharp spikes floating in the air, which started to chase after them like a whistling swarm of bees.

The sprint felt longer than it should, and Emiya felt one of the spikes shoot through her hair, nearly grazing her cheeks, but they reached the Teleportation Pad, just as Emiya focused in her mind, mentally screaming, Level 8, Section E!

There was a flash of light, and when it was gone, they were on a Teleportation Pad in a different corridor, this one being dimly lit and having no doors or windows.

Albert Rosengach! Was he really gone? He… he might survive. Let's hope he survived! And… Rin? Wh-what… what's happening? Those things just now… and… that's not Rin? Where is the real Rin?


The assassin codenamed Zurach escorted a man smartly dressed in a business suit to the office door. Not asking for permission, he kicked the door open, surprising the room's occupants. Zurach aimed his gun at them. The room's two occupants retreated to the far wall, hands raised.

Zurach tilted his head. The gentleman by his side disintegrated like sand, revealing a blonde girl in orange jumpsuit. She fell sprawled on the ground, eyes wide open and gasping for air. Heh. Nanobots. It's funny how many tricks you can actually do with them.

It was all according to the Master's plan. Angrim operated the supercomputer sending out commands to the computer virus spread through the Complex's wireless Omninet network, corrupting computerized machineries of their choice (such as the guards' suits and the maintenance bots) into following his instructions to create havoc in the Complex. Nanobots were the first to be hacked, and they were of a special importance: they were used to create decoys of Rinyaka being carried away by the guards while he, Zurach, used a stun grenade and with the help of nanobots, took away Rin disguised as a person. And here, in a room one would least expect him to be, a place free from Surveillance Eyes, he shall carry out the most crucial part of the plan.

"Excuse me, Your Majesty," he then said, roughly jerking the girl towards him before forcing a pill into her mouth. "Swallow or I'll blow your head apart." His voice sounded more boyish than she expected, but she had no other options than to comply.

Rin collapsed on her hands, suddenly sweaty, her face red. She felt like the pill actually exploded inside her stomach. Her vision blurred, and she heard a sharp voice call out to her, inside her head. Rin! Riiiin! I am you! Give in! Go to sleep! Rest! Ressst… Rin… You are tired… Let me take over from now on…

It was Rinyaka's voice, the voice of her adult self.

"NOOO!" she cried out. "NO! I WILL NOT BE—" but Zurach kicked her midsentence.

"Do not resist!" he barked, but Rin was already squirming on the floor, half-crying, half shouting, tears streaming from her eyes, limbs flailing, her face red as if on fever. "It's useless!" he added, but she could not hear him.

You will become me again, Rin. I am you.


Author's Note:

Again, another late update. Sorry.


53

To Nick, the world was a blur of spinning colors. He could not do anything even if his hands were free. He could only hold on.

And he lost his grip.

Gritting his teeth in silent shock, he could only watch as the ground grew further from him, and after that, closer.

Thump.

"STRIKE!" Calcio's excited yell and moustached face greeted him as Nick fell into the man's arms.

"Wha—?" Nick's exclamation of surprise was immediate, but he leapt off his savior almost as instantly. Then there was a huge crash, as the bot behind him smashed headfirst into the rows of pillars encircling the garden, sending tons of masonry cascading down.

"Let's scram!" said Calcio in a dramatic whisper.

"Yeah!" And they left the hedge maze, Calcio leading in the front. "Where are the other two?"

"Ahead!" Calcio replied. "Two heads!"

"What?"

"Don't worry, Nicky-hoo, they still got their heads on! I'm sure they still do!" Calcio explained, out of breath.

"R-right."

They went between the row of pillars and into the corridor ahead, Nick trusting Calcio's directions. He was relieved to see the two figures ahead of him. Both Eterna and Escheria were standing against the corridor wall, gazing hopefully as if waiting for them. A look of relief crossed their faces at the sight of thin Nick and broad-shouldered Calcio, who was thrice as wide, coming into view.

"You stopped running?" Nick asked.

"That's a silly question," Eterna answered with a sigh.

"There's a Tele Pad ahead!" Escheria added, exhilarant.

"I see," Nick panted, still breathless. But then a sudden realization hit on him, like a cold hammer blow from inside. "Guys, did… did you see that giant bot flatten the guards and…"

"That was not Rin," Eterna cut him off quickly. "They're nanobots. The guards in the maze were nanobots too."

"So she's not dead?"

"Who knows," Eterna's mouth was a straight line.

"Let's go, Nicky-hoo! Let's find a place to hide!" Calcio swaggered his way to the end of the corridor, his buttocks swinging happily as he did.

"Yeah…" Nick agreed immediately.

They jogged towards the end of the corridor, past two fallen guards and smashed vases of potted plants.

The dreamy blue glow ahead filled them with relief. The raised dais of the Teleportation Pad was at a dead end. They should be able to go somewhere safe right now.

But to where? The Pad would not lead anywhere outside of the building, Nick thought.

"Don't worry, we'll teleport ourselves to the main entrance, then we'll escape this infernal building!" Escheria chided excitedly as if reading Nick's mind.

They hurriedly stood on the dais. "Main Entrance," Escheria said tentatively, but then Nick caught sight of something.

It was a crack splitting the Pad into two, with little sparks spilling out. The Pad was damaged. But it did teleport… and it was one of the roughest Teleportation Nick had ever felt in his entire life. It felt like having his body being broken into atom-sized fragments, but not before having his limbs being shredded roughly like a rag doll torn apart by a vicious child.

He reappeared in his destination and collapsed into a painful heap.

And Eterna fell on him from ten feet above. "ARRGH!"

But Calcio and Escheria did not appear at all.


Albert Resongach stood up groggily. He had fallen on a rose bush and had numerous scratches and bruises on his body as a result. Groaning, with great difficulty the man crawled out of the clawing reaches of the thorned plant.

Rosebush'd Rosengach. How apt.

He picked up his sword, which had fallen a small distance from him. Brushing his mane of dark hair free of leaves and dirt, he looked around. "Ah," he let out a small gasp as he saw his wide-brimmed hat perched on top of the rose bush he had fallen into. Skillfully bringing it down using his strengthened polymer sword, he brought the hat down and placed it on his head with one fluid motion.

I was lucky to be alive.

He looked up. The smashed windows were two-stories up. He let out a sigh of relief again. He survived a fall from that height, and the nanobots seemed to not bother finishing him off. Did I black out when I fell?

He looked at the steel watch wrapped tightly round his wrist. Almost no time had passed at all. He paused to consider his course of action. He remembered the two girls he had escorted earlier, the Paschal and the Silmarius. He even considered climbing up the walls into the windows above and following them, but he knew that without his magical abilities, it was impossible. I can find a Tele Pad and chase after them, but…

Having taken in his surroundings, a garden of flowering shrubs and roses encircled by pillared corridors, he immediately knew his position in the complex. He was instantaneously reminded of his initial reason of coming into the complex.

I need to find my friend! He should know something, someone of his position and authority! And he's the trustiest person here! Can he explain all this madness to me? Can he do anything?

He was too close to meeting that friend. Even as he had these thoughts, his feet broke into a sprint as he passed between the pillars and into a familiar corridor.

The corridor ended at huge double doors, with a golden nameplate on it:

Supreme Judge of the Court of Worlds, Jues Novak


Byou rolled out of harm's way, the Magicide blades catching the hem of her dress as she did, the blades leaving deep gashes on the marble floor.

"Curiosity kills the cat, you know," the coffin-shaped bot said in a butler-ly voice.

"Ah… ahahahahahaha…" Byou failed to stifle her laugh, pressing a hand on her lips.

"What?" the bot cocked it's head.

"Cat jokes always get me!" she explained.

"Why thank you."

But then, there was a blur of motion, and half of the bot's head flew behind it into the corridor, clattering and sending out electrical sparks. "In Rinyaka's Empire, Curiosity, Cat kills you!" Byou cracked a grin upon seeing the effect of her swipe. But then she had to leap aside again, as the bot's countless companions bore down upon her, spouting out random words.

"BROTHEEEEER!" Swipe-swipe-swipe! This lashed its arms like whips.

"BRO! BROOO!" Clank-clank! This one nearly caught Byou across the face with its metal wheels.

"Ooh… what's worse than being ahead? Being half-a-head! BWAHAHAHA!" Thud. Byou narrowly missed a Magicide knife embedding itself in the wall two inches from her right ear.

But then one huge, lumbering bot heaved itself over its companions like a monster truck, and flattened quite a few of them underneath as it landed. Byou avoided its giant wheel, which was nearly as tall as she was.

Despite the pained "Good job, genius!" "My foot!" "That was mine, twit!" "You need to diet!" and many more humorous groans from the bots, it made its way forward, gaining speed almost surprisingly, like a charging bull.

Byou ran ahead, taking advantage of the situation. She knew that with her magic being blocked by the concentrated AntiMag beams in the complex, she had no chance of facing the crazed bot mob. But with the giant bot hindering the progress of its swifter companions, Byou thought she could manage a head start and put a distance between her and her pursuers.

But the giant bot proved fast enough to be a real threat. Byou had to run normally, depending on the power of her legs without the assistance of magic. While she was a being made of magic itself, the magic won't flow out of her. Even as she felt the giant bot closing the distance between them, more and more bots poured into the corridor. And 'poured' was an understatement. It was as if a dam of bots had just collapsed.

Her eyes caught a side corridor to her right ahead. 50 meters… 40 meters…

"Oy, you! Why you chasing girly without meee!" a bot called out from behind. The giant bot only groaned and roared like a great furnace.

30 meters… The smaller bots had overtaken the big one, and one of them was yelling manically, "YEEEPIIEE-AIIEIEEIEIEEE!" 20 meters… ten…

But then she was boxed in the ear with a metal limb, which effectively was a club. Byou's head shattered into a fine, liquid-like material.

"What's worse than half-a-head? Losing your head! BWAHAHAHA!"

The headless body fell silently, motionless, right at the junction. The bots then trampled on it, slashing and hacking, some of them using Magicide blades, reducing it into a white smear of a white liquid-like mass. ("Oh my, you're out of shape, sistah!")

The last thing that Byou perceived before being pummeled was cursing upon realizing that the junction to her right was actually not a corridor, but an alcove with a Teleportation Pad.

She was so close to escaping.


"Crack!" Shika cussed as she ran like she never did before in her entire life along the dimly lit corridor. "How did they know we're going this way?"

Emiya grumbled, "Move those stubby legs of yours, Shika, and not your mouth!"

"Waaah, you're calling me short even at a time like this!" and she actually gained speed right upon being insulted, overtaking Emiya who had longer legs. Emiya had to struggle to catch up.

Behind them, the swarm of nanobots was closing in the distance between them. Shika and Emiya were right to be frightened. This time, the swarm took the form of flying knives.

They reached the door they were looking for, but "It's locked!" exclaimed Shika, who braked hard upon seeing it, nearly tripping. She shook and twisted the handle of the door, but to no avail. Emiya was as pale as sheet. She looked petrified, like people who had their brains numb and couldn't even form a thought inside their heads.

The knives were so close that the two could see them glimmering in the dim light of the corridor.

That was when the wall opposite the door blew apart, sending chunks of stone and dust into the air.

A white-haired girl that they had never seen before stepped out of the center of the explosion. "Yeowch… those bots… ouch… that broken Tele Pad… how did I end up in a wall…"

The two girls' jaws fell open as the knives stabbed the newcomer like a target practice dummy. She collapsed onto the floor with a dull thud.


"AHAHAHAHA!" Rin laughed uncontrollably, even as her body felt like being burnt alive. Her sight blurred. In her thrashing agony, she had rolled underneath the room's voluminous curtains, and now she felt like one being torn between the boundaries of life and death, of sanity and insanity, of consciousness and oblivion.

She thought she heard a rapping knock, followed a few moments later by a vicious slashing sound, but that did not concern her.

I am Rinyaka! I am Alexandrina von Crescende! I am Empress Rinyaka III!