oneill: Darksiders - A silhouette of War brandishing Chaoseater while Ruin rears and bodies scatter around them (and who shall be able to stand?)
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[Content Notes]

Scrapped Princess | Canzonetta of the Unforgiven | The Weak | Part 3/3

"A message from the Royal City?"

"Yes, sir."

Luke's subordinate handed him a slip of paper.

Generally speaking, the military employed its mages' psychometry for long-distance communications. This extremely convenient method allowed for the exchange of enormous quantities of information without any delay, even over long distances. However, it required that the mages on either side of the transmission begin their casting rituals simultaneously. The resulting downside was that it could only be used at appointed times that had been decided on in advance.

". . ."

Luke skimmed the message.

"Zald.1 Emergency transmission to all units. Temporarily suspend current operation. Convey change of orders to deployed paramilitary Teams 3 and 6: in the event of an encounter with the Scrapped Princess, employ Class 2 surveillance, not Class 1 erasure . . . I hope this reaches them in time."

His subordinate, who seemed to have read the message already, nodded silently. The one to express surprise was Chris, who stood at his side.

"Suspend the operation?"

"It seems my suspicions have become a reality. Apparently top brass has split into two factions over how to deal with the Scrapped Princess . . . Even within High Command, more and more people are advocating for the capture of the Scrapped Princess, rather than her elimination."

Certainly, Chris had suspected as much himself, but . . .

"What's more, it seems the Church has caught wind of it too. In a fit of impatience, they sent off a secret missive signed by the Holy Father, ordering this town's annihilation."

"That's unthinkable!"

"We were prepared to do the same if the need arose, so I wouldn't say it's entirely unthinkable. That said, we don't know whether they intend to do so by sending several new units of Purgers or by some other means. Either way, the military, the Church, and the Crown have now lost all semblance of unity. We can't afford carelessness, can't allow any vulnerability. If worst comes to worst . . . I could see us ending up at war with the Church."

To comment on the situation in this way overstepped the bounds of a field officer.

"Shall I . . . go to one team or the other to convey the change of orders?"

". . . I'd appreciate it."

Luke nodded. At that moment . . .


A single figure came running up to them.

It was one of the Black Hawks. However, this soldier--who should have been able to handle any situation with cool composure, no matter how many times he was brought to the brink of death and back--had naked terror carved into his face.

". . . What's going on, Slay? Don't break formation."

"It--It's an emergency, sir," the soldier said breathlessly. He seemed perfectly panicked. He left himself wide open as he struggled up to Luke, arriving in such a state that he may as well have been a civilian. "The Purgers . . . The Purgers . . ."

At these broken words, Luke's blue eyes grew even sharper.

At the city gate . . . Shannon and his sisters could be found near the gate that created an opening in the walls that surrounded the town.

Winia had offered to accompany the siblings as far as possible to see them on their way, but they had declined. Perhaps they would have accepted, had the rumors not spread so widely . . . but as it was, being caught with Shannon and his sisters could have resulted in even more troubling rumors.

Winia had still wanted to come with them in spite of it all, but . . . Safir had managed to persuade her to stay behind.

Thus, the siblings had no one to bid them farewell as they left the town of Taurus . . .

"Eyes front, kid," Shannon said to Pacifica.

She was sitting on the coach box for a change, looking back over her shoulder at the town behind them. Raquel was in the passenger compartment, sorting through their hastily loaded luggage.

"It'll be harder, otherwise." Though his tone was as listless as ever, his voice was pitched rather lower than usual. "Also . . . Pacifica," Shannon said, sounding as though he had just spotted a rabbit on the side of the road. "Get inside and stay there. We've got trouble."
Scrapped Princess - Shannon Casull steers the coach down the road while arrows rain from above.
". . . Right."

Pacifica ducked into the passenger compartment. Shannon's hand shot out just behind her head.

A moment later, an arrow appeared in his outstretched hand.

He had snatched the arrow from thin air a moment before it found its target.

"Hey," Shannon said gloomily, as he tossed the arrow aside.

There was not a soul in sight, only the empty road stretching out before them, and yet . . .

"If you're gonna come after us, you'd better be prepared for the worst. I'm in a crappy mood right now."

Though they likely were not waiting for him . . . the moment he had finished speaking, dozens of arrows rained down on the coach as one.

Each came flying in at an entirely different angle. It was likely not just one or two archers. At the very least, four archers had to be on the move, pausing momentarily to take careful shots before re-positioning themselves.

It was doubtful that even Shannon could defend against such an attack. Likewise, the coach itself could fend off arrows, but if the horses pulling it were hit, it would all be over. A coach that could not move would soon become a coffin.

". . . O Wall, hinder!"

As Raquel's voice rang out, the defensive spell Miðgarðr activated, and countless glittering geometic patterns appeared around the coach. The arrows all shattered against the resulting barrier.

"We're breaking through!" Shannon shouted as he snapped the reins.

Miðgarðr vanished. They were in no position to gauge the enemy's fighting ability, so Raquel probably intended to conserve her powers.

A surging wave of menace closed around them. This dispassionate presence, touched by neither over-ambition nor zeal, was clearly not that of a civilian.

The siblings wondered about their enemies' true nature, but this was no time for an investigation. Putting distance between them was the first priority. To stand and fight in a place chosen by professional soldiers would be utter folly, even for Shannon.

However . . .

Both the ground and a nearby thicket suddenly burst apart.

Three men had hidden themselves without the use of magic (no doubt because, if they had hidden themselves with magic, Raquel would likely have detected them), and they leapt upon the coach with short swords drawn.

Though he kicked one of the men away, Shannon could not prevent the other two from latching on to the coach.


One on the coach box, and one on the carriage roof.

Shannon could scarcely fight with a katana on the cramped confines of the coach box. A short sword, which could maneuver more effectively, would provide a significant advantage. Moreover, it would be foolhardy for Raquel to use magic against them while they kept a tight hold on the coach.

That had been the enemy's intention from the onset.

One clumsy fall from the racing coach alone would injure Shannon badly enough to take him out of the fight, but obviously he could not afford to bring it to a halt. It was as though the sibling's combat capabilities had been reduced by half.

These enemies were frighteningly accustomed to battle. Even setting aside their individual combat skills, their tactical foresight was superior to that of the siblings.

". . . Who are you?"

"I have no obligation to answer that," replied the man who stood on the coach box, short sword in hand.

Certainly . . . one could draw that conclusion simply from his voice and physique. Each of the men wore a black mask that covered half of his head and obscured his features, most likely to hide his identity--

The man thrust his short sword home.

Shannon raised his katana to block it . . .

Ka-chunk! Shannon had tried to swing his katana by reflex, and it sank deeply into the carriage's outer wall.


His movement arrested, Shannon took a glancing blow to his left shoulder. If he had not instantly released his katana and ducked, the short sword's point would likely have sunk deep into his shoulder.

The katana tumbled from the coach. Shannon's favorite weapon clattered to the earth far behind them.

". . . Impressive," the man murmured.

He probably meant Shannon's release of his katana. To release one's accustomed weapon demanded considerable resolve. Many people become too attached to their weapons, and leave themselves vulnerable as a result.

Shannon drew the spare dagger at his waist.

He was aware of the man clinging to the carriage, but he could not afford to worry about that right now. He had no choice but to leave that one to Raquel. While they may not have compared to Chris, these men were still quite skilled.

Shannon and the masked man moved simultaneously.

The short sword struck the dagger.

Each blade struggled to overcome the other; each searched for a opening to exploit.

Shannon used brute force to twist his dagger to one side and thrust it at his opponent. The man dodged the attack and overbalanced, and Shannon took the opportunity to thrust his right knee into the man's gut.

A fight atop a hurtling coach. Even if Shannon could not beat his opponent into submission, just knocking him off the coach would be enough to neutralize the threat he posed.

However . . . the masked man had plunged his short sword into the carriage wall, then used that as a fulcrum to swing his body up. With this feat of acrobatics, the man dodged away, and Shannon's next attack sliced through empty air.

". . . What is he, a monkey?!"

Shannon struck out with his dagger, but the moment he knocked the man's short sword free of the wall, the man had already landed on the carriage roof.

"Damn it--!"

Defensive magic was one thing, but it would be impossible to use offensive magic within the confines of the passenger compartment, not to mention that magic was not suited for precise attacks. It was unthinkable to use it against men who were accustomed to close combat, especially now that there were two of them.

The men nimbly suspended themselves from the roof's edges.

The coach's windows could be set with armour plating, but right now they were inlaid with ordinary glass. The men were preparing to kick in the windows on either side of the carriage with a single blow . . .

Just before the men's feet connected, the windows shattered from the inside.


Iron pellets burst through the windows and struck the men's ankles.

Surprise and pain threw the men off balance. Even so, they did not fall from the coach but rather pulled themselves back onto the roof in a flash--an astonishing display of physical prowess.

The passenger compartment's back door opened, and Raquel casually leaned halfway out of it to face the roof. Attached to each of her wrists was a compatible bow: a small, specialized bow that, with a single component, could fire a variety of projectiles ranging from arrows to iron pellets.

Because her attacks just now had passed through the windows, their force had been reduced by half, but . . . at close range, even non-lethal pellets can strike with considerable force.

"Just because I'm a mage doesn't mean I'm limited to magical attacks, you know," Raquel said, still smiling as sweetly as ever. Even so, she had both small bows trained directly on the men. A single twitch of her index fingers would fire the iron pellets.

"Good work, Raquel!"

Shannon climbed swiftly onto the carriage roof.

Failure to settle this quickly would put them all in danger. The highway ran straight for now, but the coach could not continue its driver-less race forever. It could tip over at any moment.

The men did not move. It seemed they had been thrown off-guard by the unexpectedly formidable Casull siblings. Small wonder, as a moment's inattention could have resulted in their deaths.

Fixing a glare on the men, Shannon shouted, "Pacifica, take the reins!"

"Gaba-whaaaaaa?!" Utterly astonished, Pacifica stuck her face out the window just behind the coach box. "I've never driven before!"

"Even an abysmal first-time driver is better than none at all!"

". . . Yeah, and maybe I'll be stabbing you in the back after this," Pacifica grumbled as she crawled out the window and took the reins in hand.

"Now, what's it gonna be?" Shannon asked, sounding absolutely fed up. "It'd make my life a whole lot easier if you just ran home with your tails between your legs. I gotta go find that katana I dropped. It's a keepsake from my oyaji."

"Hn," grunted the man who had fought Shannon. "I didn't exactly go easy on you, but . . . in the end, I guess even we have a tendency to underestimate civilians."

"So you're not pulling out? You better bring it, then. Our driver's useless. There's no telling how long this coach can keep running," Shannon said, casting a sidelong glance at Pacifica . . . who all but danced on the coach box as she swung the reins to and fro and shrieked her head off.

At that moment.

The figure of a lone horseman pulled up alongside the careering coach.

The instant Shannon caught that figure at the edge of his vision, the rider leapt with astonishing agility.

Having lost its rider, the horse slowed immediately and disappeared far behind the coach.


Before the siblings' and the soldiers' startled eyes, an ash grey cloak billowed in the wind with a resounding snap.

The cloak drifted down to reveal a boy, standing beside Pacifica on the coach box.

". . . You--?!"

"I'll take it from here."

Coolly turning his back on Shannon's cry of rage, the chestnut-haired SpecOps combat technician took the reins from Pacifica.


Christopher Armalite smiled sweetly at Pacifica's bewilderment.

"For the time being, I'm not your enemy."

He hauled on the reins in a display of superhuman strength that belied his frame. In the face of this peremptory force, even the battle-panicked horses seemed to come back to themselves and began to slow their pace.

"I have a message from Major Sturm," Chris said in a clear voice, without looking back. "Code: Crimson 0037. I've heard you would understand if I told you that?"

The men glanced at each other for an instant, as though in affirmation, then swiftly sheathed their weapons. In exchange, they drew slender chains from their breast pockets. The chains were tipped with small weights, which the men threw into a nearby stand of trees, causing the chains to twine themselves around a pair of branches . . . In the next moment, the men flew from the coach, as the chains yanked them away.

It was a dazzling means of withdrawal.

". . . Hey, Battle-axe Kid," Shannon said, returning to the coach box. "I thought I told you not to show your face around here again."

"I prefer to be called Chris," Chris said serenely.

"I'm about to knock you upside the head, smart ass2 . . . What's going on here?"

For a moment, Shannon considered seizing him by the nape of his neck, but he would not have been able to live with himself if he caused the coach to tip over by assaulting its driver.

"I can't go into the specifics, as that's classified information. More importantly, the town is in serious danger. Wouldn't it be best to head back there?"

"You mean Taurus?"

"Apparently the Purgers have come back, transformed into some kind of monstrous beast. I hear it's absorbing everything around it and rapidly growing to gargantuan proportions."

As though to verify Chris's words, a thunderous roar resounded.


Pacifica looked over her shoulder and stared in blank amazement at the city that had driven them out.

There, she saw them: reaching high above the city walls and the buildings, thrashing and squirming like a mass of worms, were countless tentacles.


[Next] [Previous]

1) The text has ザルド. I have no idea. Googling turns up Mayer N. Zald, who co-wrote books and articles about social movement organization, which get referenced in a couple of books about gun control in America, but that's a huge stretch even for me.

There's also Buddyfight's Zald, which came out in 2014, so maybe they're both referencing something I've overlooked? Back

2) The text has masegaki (マセガキ), literally "precocious brat," but that feels like a very un-Shannon phrasing in English. Back

Turns out I remember just a tiny bit of Japanese. Aha . . .
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sutepri: Scrapped Princess - Pacifica Casull beams while the sun rises in the background. Also, Shannon's shoulder. (Default)
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