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Extended Business Trip [Arknights/Youjo Senki (Manga)]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by NTR Commissar, Aug 28, 2022.

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  1. NTR Commissar

    NTR Commissar Recreational RACIST

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    Catastrophes. Originium. Conflict.

    After an ignominious death as Tanya von Degretyav, Tanja Müller was born into the dangerous world of Terra. Despite all odds, Tanja had managed to build a good third life for herself in Lungmen.

    Had she known that one business trip would cause it all to come crashing down, she would have simply called in sick.



    Pretty self-indulgent. Crossposting from AO3 where I post work still in editing, but I think the first arc is more or less finalised.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2022
    AshCrow, boredbird, Aleister and 5 others like this.
  2. Threadmarks: Chapter 1 - Vorspiel zur Dämmerung
    NTR Commissar

    NTR Commissar Recreational RACIST

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    After passing away in my second life due to what I could only surmise was a car bomb, I had been a little surprised to find myself immediately reincarnated once more.

    After all, in our first meeting he complained about all the effort he went to reincarnating us. A ridiculous complaint, as he was the one who built the system that led him there, picked the specific model too, only to complain about lack of consumer interest. In our subsequent meetings he would gloat that he didn't need me, because violence and warfare had indeed succeeded in igniting humanity's reliance on him.

    And yet at the end of it I woke up as a baby again, without a word from him. Had he finally grown a sense of shame after his failed hypothesis of 'LITTLE GIRL + WAR ORPHAN + MAGIC + CONFLICT = PIETY' or had he thrown in the towel after putting me through hell, only for one of his little buddies to reincarnate me again?

    I didn't have to wonder for long, because only a few months in and I realised my situation was uncomfortably familiar. By the time I was a year old, I was ninety-percent sure it was another experiment. Whether my second death was Being X flipping the chessboard like a child to try again with small changes, or whether he had failed to predict the explosion that killed me and this was the closest he could get to a redo, it was just yet again another piece of evidence that he had no claim to being an omnipotent, omniscient God.

    To explain, my third world was both mundane and fantastical. From the perspective of my first life, there were plenty of things to find familiarity in.

    People had mobile phones. The gendarmes back in my hometown would patrol the streets with little earpieces worn.

    Colour televisions were everywhere, even in my early youth, so long as your definition of ‘everywhere’ discounted the impoverished district I grew up in.

    Globalisation reached a stage where multinational companies were an everyday occurrence. Even in my conservative, dinky little hometown of Wolumonde, you could find a Cambrian selling faux-fur coats.

    Technology and culture developed to the point that being a livestream host was a legitimate profession these days. The internet existing said plenty on its own.

    But for all the superficial resemblances to the world of my first life, it was unequivocally not the same.

    On the world of Terra, civilisation revolved around a substance called Originium. All the familiar technologies I previously mentioned were powered by power plants running on Originite Prime, a processed, high-yield form of Originium. Originium was nigh ubiquitous, found all over the land, and cultures around the world had developed since antiquity around its use. Most modern technologies were reliant on Originium and its derivatives, whether through crucial components or simply for power.

    The catch was that modern research had identified Originium exposure as the causative agent behind Oripathy, a cancer-like wasting disease that had the added bonus of being infectious. Despite that, there was little to no chance of moving away from its use. Originium was essential in keeping our nomadic cities moving, which were a necessity because Terra had natural disasters every Tuesday.

    Even if that weren't true, Originium was simply too cheap, too energy rich, and too plentiful to stop using.

    Only poor people caught Oripathy, anyway.

    Originium propped up the magic too, which existed like in my second life. What was unalike was that, once again, Originium products were crucial to powering, amplifying, or otherwise enhancing that magic. It was so important that magic itself was referred to as Originium Arts.

    In fact, for all the modern, corporate trappings, Terra was decidedly more fantastical than the worlds of either of my previous lives. For starters, there were no humans in the traditional sense. Only various flavours of beastkin, demonkind, and other assorted fantasy races. My next door neighbour was a vampire.

    There was even a small-statured race of smiths and engineers who lived in a kingdom beneath the ground. I’d say what that reminded me of, but that word was a racial slur here.

    I myself had been born an Elafia, some sort of deer-person, and sported a small pair of antlers. It was a little strange, given that I seemed to recall that only male deer had those, but I was no animal expert. It was what it was.

    Also, ‘small’ was a relative term. My antlers still made putting on a t-shirt an exercise in manoeuvrability.

    At least I was fairly tall.

    My name, Tanja, had obviously carried over from my second life, so I wouldn’t take it for granted that I could reach the top shelf now.

    There was a time when I had worried malnutrition might smother any chances of that in the crib. Wolumonde, the nomadic town I grew up in, had been an impoverished one, neglected for more glamorous neighbours by the local aristocrat who ruled them all. And I lived on the worse side of town. The orphanage I grew up in was in the slums, right next to Zwölftontechnik Street, where they forced all the Oripathy sufferers to live before the war.

    We didn’t have it as bad as the disenfranchised Infected, but winters were still too cold, especially with how closely Wolumonde stayed to the Winterwisp Mountains, and we had few enough blankets that we had to share. Dinner on every night of the year but one was boiled onions with stale bread bought at a discount from what didn’t sell on Viktualien Street.

    It was a sight better than not eating at all, but I had been worried about what that diet would do to my growth. After all, I’d never been an Elafia before, and didn’t know what nutrients one needed. The ladies at the orphanage had done their best, but it was a second childhood lived out in deprivation.

    When I was born, it had just been me and my mother. A beautiful woman with ivory white horns and sad blue eyes. We moved from place to place, me swaddled in a coarse blanket, and her hiding beneath a dull green shawl.

    From time to time she would speak to me about how my father was fighting for the nation right now, and that when it was over he’d find us and bring us back home. He was a mighty count, she would whisper to me, and he’d win the day soon enough.

    I would be very surprised if she expected me to actually understand any of that given that I was an infant, but Leithanien and Imperial were mutually intelligible enough for me to piece it together with repetition.

    When the war ended, people all around us had been making merry, all smiles and relief, and my mother tried to look the part. She never quite managed.

    One night, she brought me to a decrepit three story building. Apparently my father had been on the wrong side of the war, and bad men were looking for us now. But when things were safe, and it would be no time at all, she promised, my mother would return for me.

    In the end I lived there for the next twelve years, and she never did return. Not that I really resented her for that.

    While I grew up in the orphanage, I learned more about the war of my infancy. The previous ruler had apparently been some kind of evil wizard. Our current rulers, the Twin Empresses, had taken umbrage with his human experimentation, and overthrew him with the support of the Electors. That was fair enough, honestly. I, myself, had some less than positive experiences with mad scientists, and couldn’t imagine living with one as my monarch.

    Unfortunately, all signs pointed to my father being one of his loyalists. The thing about supporting mad tyrants is that when they’re overthrown you catch a lot of the flak too.

    The violence in Leithania had not stopped with the Twin Empresses' victory. It simply spilled over from soldiers to civilians, and the people who had been tormented by the former monarch poured out all their anger on everybody related to him. Great manhunts had been conducted for the Witch King's relatives, his supporters, and their relatives as well.

    Any hope I might have held of my mother getting me out of there died with that knowledge. It would have to be me.

    We had all seen more than enough of the poor sods over on Zwölftontechnikstrasse. As someone who had gone hungry before, I could say with authority that starvation was a bad way to go, but slowly turning into an Originium crystal from the inside out sounded an order of magnitude worse.

    Not me. That would not be me. And so after cursing Being X more than a few times for my lot in life, I continued what I had already been doing anyway. I studied, and demonstrated excellence as best I could.

    When I reached my teens I applied for a university scholarship in a proper nomadic city. They accepted me, and I left Wolumonde for good. A few years later, I found a job at a prestigious service firm, before eventually getting an offer for an even better role in Lungmen, one of Yan’s nomadic cities.

    Leithania had been comfortable enough. Despite some of the similarities, Leithania wasn’t the fantasy equivalent of the Empire, exactly, and the cuisine was similarly different. Or maybe it was simply the benefit of being dozens of years ahead in development, despite this being the nominal eleventh century. I suppose I would never know.

    At any rate, the food had been all right, and the entertainment was fine too. I’d take Leithanian opera over Noh any day.

    Unfortunately, a few years back, whatever surviving loyalists to the previous monarch began stirring up trouble again, and in response, some of the old manhunts recommenced. Not wanting to tempt fate, I thus decided to move halfway across the world.

    And wouldn’t you have it, I was accepted into the Lungmen branch of one of the four biggest professional service firms in the world.

    To be frank, I had been hoping to move a little further east for nostalgia’s sake. Between the names and the fact that they had shinobi, the Far East was undoubtedly Terra’s version of Japan. Sadly, they were going through some Nanbokuchou thing right now, which I wanted to stay well clear of.

    The position in Lungmen also paid better.

    That had ultimately decided things for me. Besides, there were plenty of examples of cultural cross-pollination. A consequence of Lungmen’s Madam Governor being Lady Fumizuki, no doubt.

    You could find izakaya here and there in the alleyways of downtown Lungmen, and there were plenty of authentic restaurants. Despite the name, Uncle Leung’s, down the street from MountainDash Logistics, served some incredible shimesaba. I didn’t even really like sashimi, but I had eaten there twice.

    I could get a taste of home in Lungmen, if Japan could still be called that, while making a lot of money. That sounded like the perfect place to me.

    Plus, I had been to Hong Kong in my first life. I liked it enough. How much worse could it be on wheels?

    That was how I found myself living in Lungmen for the next few years.

    I’d never donated in my first life, except for tax incentives, but the orphanage had funded my schooling when they realised my precociousness. Over the years, while I climbed the ranks of my company, I sent money back home as a form of repayment. As a wealthy businesswoman, I wouldn’t begrudge giving more money than they had invested in me.

    At any rate I ended up keeping in contact, so if by some chance my birth mother survived, she would be able to find me. I kept the name she gave me, was the youngest woman to ever make junior partner in my company, and I was the spitting image of what I remembered of her.

    And well, if somebody else went looking instead, I was all the way over in Lungmen, and the L.G.D. were very good at their job.

    Not that I was in Lungmen right this moment. In fact, I wasn’t even in Yan.

    As previously mentioned, I had made junior partner. With Terra being so prone to natural disasters, travel wasn’t as convenient as it had been on Earth, and a consequence of that was that business trips were a slightly bigger deal.

    Apparently I was the only one who could be trusted to get this one right.

    That was why it was looking like I'd be spending Christmas in Chernobog of all places. Which was where I was now. Standing in my hotel room. Staring out the window into the drab streets of the city.

    As much as it had supposedly developed over the years, the industrialisation did no favours for the appearance of this derelict.

    It was also uncomfortably Russy. How could a place that had never developed Communism look so disturbingly communist?

    If it hadn’t been for the deal we were brokering with one of the local mining companies, I would never have willingly stepped foot here.

    I ran a hand over my face and huffed.

    At least the food was all right. It felt like I circled back to that point when it came to a lot of problems, actually. Was this a lingering occupational hazard from my second life?

    A knock on the door cut that thought short.

    “Coming!” I said.

    Unlike some of my colleagues, I had no habit of walking around hotel rooms without clothes on, so I immediately made for the door. Hotel rooms weren't a sauna or an onsen, after all, and if it felt like one, they always came with air conditioning these days.

    On the other side of the door was an unhappy-looking Ursine girl with my room service. Wonderful.

    "Thank you," I said with a nod.

    "Enjoy your drink," she responded with a strange look, as I shut the door behind me.

    If time flowed linearly between dimensions, Serebryakov would be in her forties by now. The others might even be old enough to be grandparents.

    As was tradition for my birthday, I raised a glass of hot chocolate to them. Technically this tradition had only begun after I died, the hot chocolate the orphanage made was to celebrate Christmas, and it wasn't so much my date of birth as the day my mother hid me there, but it was close enough.

    I closed my eyes with my glass held aloft.

    Wherever you are, my battle-crazy men, I hope you’re staying out of trouble.

    Back in Leithania, some might have considered it gauche to drink hot chocolate out of a wine glass, but it was the truth that I had grown up in poverty. I wasn’t ashamed of that. The past was just a spice that made my current salary all the sweeter.

    That was the beauty of a modern economy. Anybody with half a brain and the grit to put in the work could reach the top, even if they grew up eating slop and wearing dresses made of thick curtain cloth.

    I kicked back and turned on the television.

    "Currently, the Military Police have already surrounded the thugs who had taken Vaschuk Prospect," said the news anchor. "As you can see, this senseless violence is about to be put to an end. Please do not panic. Stay indoors, and await another victory for Chernobog…"

    I felt my ears twitch forward in alarm. It just had to be now, while I was in this shithole of a city.

    My face went tight with a frown. Was this going to affect my work?

    I just hoped that tonight's meeting would go smoothly, and I could go back to enjoying my Lungmen Dollars in their city of origin.

    I had only finished my glass of chocolate when the building across from me exploded.
     
  3. Threadmarks: Chapter 2 - Потускневшее Серебро
    NTR Commissar

    NTR Commissar Recreational RACIST

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    To be more accurate, an explosion had been launched at the building, and a spider web of fractures spread immediately across my window.

    What part of this was another victory for Chernobog?!

    I dove under the table and flipped it to shield me from the window. For once, I appreciated this hotel's spartan aesthetic, because the tables in Lungmen wouldn't have been solid steel.

    I lay flat on the ground and scanned for a safer location to move to.

    What was that? I hadn't noticed anything out of the ordinary. It was just another depressing Chernobog day before some maniac lit up the building. Was this connected to the riots on the news? And why the core city municipal government office? Why would anybody attack there? It was all urban planners and sewerage managers. No Ursine aristocrat would find themselves caught dead there, and the City Hall was just down the street!

    My ears swivelled madly to hear any incoming danger, picking up only the screams from the adjacent hotel floors, before I fought off the instinct to listen and covered them with my hands. If this was a random attack and they hit the hotel too, the last thing I wanted was to rupture my eardruMiss It was a miracle that the glass windows even held. Must have been whatever they used to tint them. The city only looked uglier because of that, but I was beyond caring about the view right now.

    Fearfully, I prepared for another attack, but nothing happened. After a minute or so of tense waiting, I slumped onto my bottom with a ragged sigh.

    If the hotel hadn’t been bombed yet, then it probably wouldn’t be for now. There was no rational reason to delay the next attack, save for some kind of mind game, but I wouldn't allow my judgement to be dictated by paranoia. The police would be heading here soon, and the Ursus Military Police were nothing if not brutally efficient. Whoever this culprit was, they were about to have concerns beyond which Ursine affront to architecture to firebomb.

    Still lying flat on my belly, I removed my hands from my head and crawled around my makeshift shelter towards the window. My face being the closest part of me to the floor-to-ceiling window, I would be in a spot of trouble if anything caused the glass to shatter inwards, but that was a risk I was willing to take for now.

    When I wormed past the empty glass on the carpet, I took the opportunity to toss it into another room. At least it would be one less loose object if a shockwave passed through here later.

    Suddenly, I realised that the television was still on. Nearly drowned out by the ongoing cries of distress, the news anchor on television continued to speak.

    "Breaking news. A number of arrests have been made in connection with the riots on the city outskirts in what is a rapidly concluding situation. We report that the Military Police have the situation under control and urge all citizens of Ursus to stay indoors, and…"

    I tuned her out. Propaganda was a social control apparatus that all states used to some degree or other. It was something I was used to peering beneath, and I held no strong feelings about it in general. Had even posed in a corset and awful dress for propaganda, once. I would never forget Special Major Hildebrandt’s hands.

    Having said that, there was something unquantifiably unpleasant about being fed particularly blatant examples of it. Perhaps because it felt like they were treating me like an idiot. Perhaps because heavy-handed examples seemed to be a hallmark of communists and other tin-pot regimes, since they could only survive by obscuring the failings of their own governance. Either or.

    This was as blatant as it got. My hotel was located on Central Main Street, in the wealthy core city. It was about as far from the docked outer districts as you could go. And yet…

    And yet, what met my eyes when I looked out the window were armed rioters in identical masks and hooded white coats, in the process of blockading the road. They definitely hadn’t been there earlier. Had they been hidden among the crowd until it was time to don their disguises? But amongst the prosperous pedestrians on Central Main, they would have stood out like a sore thumb.

    Beyond the obvious rioting, there was something about them that betrayed their desperation. To be blunt, they reeked of poverty. Elafia didn't have the most incredible eyesight, but even from the fifth floor, I could tell. Some of the rioters were stick-thin. Some wore ragged clothing beneath the hoods. Some walked with an uneven, limping gait.

    These were not people that belonged here in the central business district. If this huge crowd of poor people were now here in the core city, that meant that they had come at least halfway across Chernobog. Why hadn't the Ursus Military Police noticed or stopped them?

    …What exactly was this riot about, exactly? I hadn’t held much interest when I thought it was just a few trouble-making delinquents, but it was obvious from the moment that explosion went off that this was a bigger deal than I'd thought. Some of the masked rioters were smashing the windows of the municipal government office now, I noticed. Was this some sort of Occupy Wall Street movement? Eat the rich, and the like?

    I stilled. Against my better judgement, I pressed an ear against the shattered glass.

    “Down with Ursus! Down with the Tsar! Fire and vengeance, reunion’s not far!”

    By all accounts the current Tsar was a peaceful moderate who pushed for a number of social safety nets. I could understand the conservative war hawks chomping at the bit, but what was there not to like about him if you were poor? Were they blaming him for not fixing all their problems for them?

    …It couldn’t be that this was some sort of Commie uprising, could it?!

    No, no, don’t jump at shadows, Tanja. There was never even a manifesto. At least as far as I knew. I hadn’t kept up with world news too rigorously beyond what was relevant to my job, unfortunately. It had been a lot of work getting to where I was. Of all times to be regretting the hyper focus on my career…

    The rioters had just begun climbing onto cars and setting more trees on fire when the Military Police finally arrived. In their trucks, the MPs broke past the half-built barricades with wild abandon. I watched quietly as the team of burly Ursine Guards alighted their vehicles and crashed into the masked rioters with the force of a sledgehammer.

    The masks stood no chance, as expected. Against the well-disciplined and well-equipped warriors of the Ursus Military Police, the masked rabble rousers were tossed about like so much garbage, and treated about as well. The beating was brutal and without mercy. More than one of the attackers would not be getting up again, which was about what you could expect after attacking a government building in the Empire of Ursus, of all places.

    So why did I still feel so uneasy?

    With time, the answer became apparent. These Guards were the only MPs coming. I didn’t know where the other police were, but if they hadn’t arrived after an incident like this in the centre of the city, I could only assume that they had encountered trouble elsewhere.

    Meanwhile, the rioters seemed endless.

    It was like a never-ending tide. When one person was beaten down, another took their place, and their replacements weren’t about to run out either. Everywhere I could see were more rioters. If I looked up the road to my right, even more seemed to be streaming in. These rioters were converging on this location from all across the district.

    The Military Police were going to lose.

    I worried at my lower lip. In situations like these, the safest thing to do was to stay indoors. But from what I could see, the rioters would soon control the entire district. When those blockades went up, between the physical barriers and their sheer numbers, any MP reinforcements would be fighting an uphill battle to reach the people in the building across the road.

    Rationally, there was a good chance the rioters would leave us alone, given that we had nothing to do with whatever their grievance was. As long as we had enough food to last, it wouldn’t be too great an ordeal to simply wait for order to be restored.

    But did I really want to trust myself to the type of unruly mob that thought that bombing a government building was a reasonable decision?

    I agonised over my options, but soon the choice was made for me. Marching down Central Main Street was a flood of white and black. A huge group of masked rioters. But unlike the mob fighting down below, amongst the incoming crowd were people who moved like military veterans. There was something in their gait that they shared with the survivors of the Rhine Front. Worse yet, these newcomers seemed to be armed with actual military equipment. Uniform models of swords, crossbows, riot shields and what looked like Originium launchers.

    I realised what that earlier explosion had been. I wasn’t so familiar with the military equipment of this world, hadn’t cared for twenty years. But if one of those mortars had taken out the front of that building, what could all these others do?

    It was beyond worrying. Had these people raided a storehouse, or did they have stronger backing than expected?

    I was beginning to realise that perhaps the waters of this city ran deeper than they seemed. To my understanding, Ursus’ Third Army was stationed close by. Did these rioters simply not fear for their lives, or were they confident the Ursine military wouldn't be an issue somehow?

    Whatever the case, the Military Police fighting down there were completely done for. They were completely outnumbered and couldn’t win against their current opponents, let alone the more dangerous fighters coming in from the east.

    This riot was nothing to do with me. I wasn’t even from here. Whatever the outcome of this battle, I wanted no part of it. I’d leave before the masks finished locking down the area and make my way to wherever the bulk of the police forces were. At the very least, I wanted to keep away from the incoming soldiers whose motives I still didn't know.

    I scanned the room for what I needed to take with me. I could leave all my luggage. Nothing I had here couldn’t be replaced with a bit of money. Instead, I gathered up my documentation, and put on a pair of running shoes.

    Only sparing a moment to lock the door behind me, I left my hotel room and made for the stairs. In the emergency stairwell, I came across others who had left their hotel rooms I didn’t know if they had made the same calculations, but I was in no mood to care.

    Taking six steps at a time in a way that would have felt awkward in my second life, floors blurred by me as I bolted for the ground floor. After the final stairwell landing, I hurtled down the typically drab Ursine hallway, passing by portrait after portrait of current and previous Tsars.

    I had followed the bellhop down this very hallway when I first arrived here, so I knew it led to the western exit. Around me were frightened hotel staff, and at least a few panicked guests who seemed to have the same idea as me. More third parties unlucky enough to be caught in Chernobog during all this. There wasn't much I could or wanted to do for them, so I spared them only a passing glance. The side foyer was just around the next corner. From down here, I could hear the roar of the pandemonium on the streets.

    In line with some of Chernobog’s awful aesthetics, the walls of the lobby would be almost entirely windowless, so there would be some protection from gazes outside. It was to be the last bit of relative safety that I would have for a while, before I stepped out into the chaos.

    I slowed down and carefully approached the turn, hoping nobody too unfriendly waited around the corner. To my surprise, in the lobby was the man who, in another timeline, might have been my verbal sparring partner for tonight.

    "Director Veselov?" I asked.

    The well-dressed Ursus almost jumped out of his skin before a look of recognition passed through his eyes.

    "Miss Müller!”

    Müller wasn't my birth surname. Nobody was sure what it was because my mother's note only mentioned my given name. Considering the circumstances of my birth, I sure as hell didn't want to find out, either. When children at the orphanage passed a certain age without being adopted, the aunties at the orphanage would kindly assign us one. I didn't have much of a preference, so they gave me the most common one in town.

    I was used to it enough that I answered to it by reflex now.

    Clutching a briefcase to his chest and gaping at me was the middle-aged Ursus I was supposed to be meeting tonight: Sasha Veselov. He wasn’t from Chernobog either. Arktik Oridzhinium was a centuries-old mining firm, owned by the Ursus Imperial Family. Having slept on the development of Chernobog for decades now, AO had finally decided to make a move a few weeks ago. Their negotiations with the Boris Group had ended in a major joint project based out of Chernobog itself, so the headquarters in Saint Gryphersburg had dispatched one of their directors to oversee the project.

    The firm I worked for, Coopers & Harding, had a presence across most of the developed world, but due to a variety of historical factors, we didn't have much of a foothold in Ursus. The higher ups were hoping that the new mining project could be an inroad into the market, and after a lot of office politics, it was determined that this would be assigned to the Lungmen Branch due to the physical proximity to Chernobog. That was how I found myself flown into the city yesterday.

    Now Sasha Veselov was standing there, wondering what he should do. I could understand the feeling. Just an hour ago, I was occupying myself with how to wheedle the man into paying for services the project didn't really need. Now, I was just desperate to get to whichever district the bulk of the Military Police were operating out of. I imagined he was much the same.

    "I must admit, this was not how I thought I'd be spending this day," I said. Veselov chuckled nervously.

    "No, I imagine not. Just a few minutes ago I was worrying about which vintage to have tonight.”

    “Oh?” I smiled. “More worried about the wine than the conversation partner?”

    "You belittle yourself, Miss Müller! Imagine if I entertained a rising star like yourself with mamrać," he japed, smiling in a way that must have been vaguely charming even on a middle-aged man.

    I made an exaggerated grimace. "I didn't think you could find that Kazimierzian swill within Ursine borders," I joked back, hoping to ease the nerves.

    It might not have worked with a Chernobog native, but out west, in Saint Gryphersburg, they were still resentful about their dozen failures to annex the nation of horse folk. As I learned in all three of my lives, there really was nothing like a touch of casual racism for building solidarity with strangers.

    "Fu! Their petty horsemen knights cannot defeat us on an open field, so they ply our poor with piss," Veselov huffed.

    Privately, I didn't think mamrać was so bad. It was some kind of fortified apple wine, unique to this world as far as I knew, but was easy enough on the way down. Sylwia from accounting had gifted me some chocolate mamrać for Christmas once, being from Kazimierz herself. I remember heading back to my apartment later that night, and rather enjoying the bottle with the traditional fried chicken Christmas dinner I picked up on the way home.

    And his point about open combat was not strictly true. Cyryl Nearl had bloodied Ursus so badly in the last war that Kazimierz went on to reconquer historical territory.

    "The military might of Ursus is well known," I agreed instead. "I'm sure this rabble will be cleared up soon enough, but for now, shall we relocate ourselves?"

    That took some of the wind out of the director. His smile faded a little, but he nodded in agreement.

    "Of course, Miss Müller. Where were you headed?"

    "There's a well-equipped group of rioters coming in from the east. We'd best leave before they arrive."

    Veselov nodded grimly.

    "Let's hope they don't make things too difficult for us," he muttered.

    When we entered the foyer, I felt a little foolish. Some of the hotel staff had already begun barricading the only entrance. Young Ursi were moving desks and chairs in front of the door. Of course they were. With the explosion, and then the fighting, why would anybody on the ground floor do otherwise?

    I approached the young man who seemed to be in charge.

    “Excuse me. We’re trying to get out. Please let us leave,” I said.

    The staff member shook his head.

    “We have orders to barricade the doors. Please return to your rooms and wait until order has been restored.”

    “There are other guests leaving through the main lobby,” I argued. At least they seemed to have been heading that way. Noticing the stubborn set of his jaw, I tried a different tack. “The police outside are being beaten back, and there’s a huge armed mob heading down the street. They’ll be here any minute. We don’t want to be trapped here when they arrive.”

    The young man hesitated.

    “That’s all the more reason to remain here. We’ll be safer inside the hotel.”

    “I don’t want to be locked in,” I insisted.

    “Young man, we have friends that we’ve promised to rendezvous with,” said Veselov. I didn’t know if it was true, but I wasn’t about to gainsay him. “It will only take a moment to let us out, and you’ll have the entrance barricaded again.”

    “He’s right. Nobody is trying to break the door down right now,” I pointed out. “This should be our decision to make.”

    The staff member looked between us for a moment, but eventually he nodded.

    “You’ll have to be quick. Iosef, Bogdan, help me shift this cupboard.”

    The two Ursi only took a moment to comply, having overheard our exchange. To the side, a clerk couldn’t help her hands shaking with fright.

    "Are you sure this is wise?" she asked. "Shouldn't we just wait until things settle down?"

    "It might be best for you to do exactly that," I said. "We'll take our chances."

    I wasn't sure I wanted a bigger crowd, anyhow. I was lucky enough to bump into Veselov. If nothing else, going through something like this together was sure to build a rapport. But if we were trying to leave the area without drawing too much attention to ourselves, it would be better to avoid moving as a crowd.

    With the help of the three Ursi, the barricade was moved just enough to open the door a crack, and I was able to squeeze through into the alleyway beyond. Director Veselov followed behind me. It was pandemonium outside. The masked rioters had begun to vandalise the streets. Between the molotovs being thrown around and the trees ignited in the earlier mortar attack, I could smell the smoke and burning from all the way over here.

    The Ursus MPs must have still been fighting rioters in the distance, but they were buried behind a sea of people. What I could see were other members of the hooded mob breaking open shop windows and looting things. That was a little chilling. I was reasonably sure that none of the thievery or vandalism they were committing had much to do with their political message. I felt bad for the shop owners, but such was the fate of inanimate storefronts when a rowdy mob really wanted to show the government that they meant business.

    At least there were no such stores in the alleyway where Veselov and I stood.

    "I suppose we're making a run for it," I said. The sooner we left this area the better.

    "At least we've got a chance," replied Veselov. "Let's take this corner. It will take us parallel to Central Main Street."

    I nodded. We began trotting down the narrower street, staying close to the wall. On a normal day, this service street was probably used by local businesses and offices for deliveries and garbage collection. Here and there along the walls were abandoned trucks, often surrounded by their cargo of crates and boxes, sometimes next to a still-open garage door. One garage was filled with boxes labelled with the only word in Cyrillic I recognised, 'coffee'. We were probably passing behind a café or coffee store.

    The thought of coffee made for a strange, but familiar contrast with the smell of smoke. The combination of the two scents was oddly nostalgic.

    Ah well. We continued down the shaded street mostly without trouble, save for the occasional truck we had to circle around.

    The comparative differences in brightness meant that whenever we passed an intersection, we had a clear view of Central Main Street, at least where more trucks hadn’t been parked at each alley’s mouth. The ubiquity of these trucks was leading me to believe that this was how all these rioters had gathered here. It was simple enough to hide men in the back instead of cargo, and there was nothing strange about delivery trucks driving into the core city.

    At least the number of them seemed to be decreasing as we jogged along. It was a promising sign that we were heading the right way.

    The further west we ran, the more civilians we started to see, people fleeing from the chaos in the vicinity of the mortar attack. Many of them looked like office workers who had no idea what was happening. I wondered if any of them had been from that government office.

    Some of the others seemed to have been pedestrians or shoppers before the attack, based on their casual clothing. The occasional glimpse of dressed up young women whenever we passed another intersection, run ragged from trying to escape. Sometimes of parents carrying their crying children, or dragging them along where they could. There were also the brawls. Here and there I saw young civilian men fighting against the rioters.

    I suppose the patriots of Ursus hadn’t been able to help themselves. In my opinion, if they were smart they would have avoided antagonising the rioters at all costs. Even as a disorganised mob, the rioters had far greater coordination and unity of purpose than any hypothetical ad-hoc coalition of shoppers and office workers. That hot-headed patriotism would cost them.

    On the other hand, at least the young Ursi men were a good distraction, in case any of the masks felt like harassing perfectly uninvolved bystanders. It did make me wonder how on earth there were so many of them. I had been running for two or three minutes now, and these hooded mask wearers still seemed to be everywhere. They were even ahead of us. Were more of those empty trucks parked further up? I hoped we weren't still in the epicentre of all this, or else moving west would just run us into more reinforcements. If the better choice turned out to be holing up in the hotel, I was going to kick myself. At least we hadn't met any of them on this street yet.

    "So where are you meeting those friends of yours?" I asked without looking back at Veselov.

    "A little white lie," he said between puffs. "I wanted to make the choice easier on the boy."

    Honestly, if they had refused, I was planning to just jump out from the second floor. I wasn’t in great shape, but humans seemed a lot tougher in this world.

    As we hurried past an intersection we heard a shrill scream in the distance. I paused only for a moment before I continued running.

    “Shouldn’t we see what that was?” Veselov hesitantly. What was it about screaming women that made burly men so irrational?

    “If you want to assist your countrymen, we can offer what aid we can when we reach an evacuation point,” I said. Whatever that sound was, did he really think we’d be of any help there? I doubted either of us were medical arts practitioners, and if it was a fight we’d be running into we’d stand even less of a chance. “For now it’s most important that we help ourselves—”

    I was rounding another large truck when something barrelled into me from the side. I felt myself being rammed painfully into the wall before my vision swam. While one side of me burned, a large hand gripped my shoulder on the other side and slammed my back against the concrete.

    “Helping yourselves, huh? Looks like we’ve found us a rat and his little soderzhanka,” said the blurry woman who attacked me.

    A… A mistress?! Even through the pain I could feel my indignation rising. Did this little tart have any idea how hard I worked for my money?

    I tried to muster a response when two more thugs darted towards me and pinned me on either side. To my indignation, the woman began rifling through my pockets.

    Nearby, a small crowd of their friends were pulling Veselov by the hair and belting him in the face.

    “What do we have here?” One of them was looking through Veselov’s wallet.

    “He with the government?” asked the one holding his hair.

    “I-I’m not, I’m just a director for a mining company,” Veselov hacked out.

    For some reason the air gained a dangerous edge.

    “Oh? A director! We humble peasants are honoured by your presence, Gospoda Veselov,” the thug laughed, pulling Veselov’s head back.

    “And it looks like he’s from Sankt Grypherburg too,“ added the one holding the wallet.

    “This one’s from Lungmen.” One of my own captors gestured to me.

    “That’s right,” I said. “I’m just here to work out a business deal with Director Veselov. I have nothing to do with whatever you’re protesting.”

    Why were they looking at me like that?

    “Nothing to do with us…” the woman from earlier muttered. “This is a very nice blazer. Maynis & Linda?”

    I immediately understood.

    “You can have it of course,” I offered with an ingratiating smile. Trying to butter her up, I added, “I think it would look better on you than me.”

    The masked thugs laughed, but it was a malicious, bitter thing.

    I laughed along nervously.

    “Of course, you can also have everything in my wallet,” I said, before thinking better of it. “But I would much appreciate it if you left me with my ID.”

    The punch to my face was as unexpected to me as it was unreasonable. What the hell?! There was no need to resort to violence!

    My vision swam, again, as I felt a tooth loosen.

    “You hear that, my friends?” The woman began throwing hooks into my stomach. “A high! And mighty! Businesswoman from Lungmen! Thinks we want the scraps off her table! All while she and this Veselov get rich from sucking every last drop of blood from us Infected and sending us to die in the mines.”

    Infected? As I gasped for breath through watering eyes, I gave them a closer look. It was hard to tell through all the clothing, but a few had their sleeves rolled up, revealing forearms speckled with black crystals.

    “I don’t know anything about that,” I said weakly. I completely objected to this blame. It was their government! What did Ursine policies on Oripathy sufferers have to do with me? Nobody had ever approached me with such a job offer!

    In the background, the masked Infected were stomping on Director Veselov now. Hey, he’s going to die at this rate. I still need that man, you lunatics!

    “Please let us go,” I tried. Or at least let me go. I had never been good at begging, but I gave it my best shot.

    I swallowed thickly. I couldn’t see their expressions through the masks, but judging by their body language, it didn’t seem to be working.

    “Her expression seems to be saying that it has nothing to do with her,” said the thug to my right.

    Somehow, I could tell the woman was sneering through her mask.

    “That’s all right. We’ll make it something to do with you,” she said.

    The next hook to my stomach struck me so hard in the gut that I doubled over, even with both my arms restrained. I gagged, and then hacked, and was about to try pleading again when I noticed all the blood.

    My blouse was turning red with it, and jutting out through a jagged tear was a luminescent shard of black crystal.

    “Welcome to our brotherhood, sister,” she laughed.

    When I came back to my senses, I was standing in inch-deep blood, and my attackers were steaming corpses.
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2022 at 12:49 PM
  4. Gigler

    Gigler Getting sticky.

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    Huh, okay. That's rocking good. Love it.
     
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  5. Gigler

    Gigler Getting sticky.

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    It's kinda interesting that Tanja apparently have some sort of PTSD thanks to her second death because in this life she stubbornly distanced herself from any type of military training, physical training or magic activities (otherwise I don't see how, a bunch of low level nobodies could tramp her like that). Furthermore she apparently craving for social interaction and family relationship because she actually remember her mother as more than background noise, waited for her and left her mother with a way to find her and contact her. This is new.
     
  6. Darik29

    Darik29 Verified Delicious

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    I must admit, i know very little about Arkknight. But the way you write makes for a good Tanya, and the story itself drew me in even without knowledge of the main setting. Very nice!

    Eager to see which way you plan to take this boss!
     
  7. NTR Commissar

    NTR Commissar Recreational RACIST

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    As long as you aren't a gambling addict, I encourage you to try it! The game is fairly considerate of your time, and the story, lore, and character designs are fire.

    It's marketed as tower defence, and to be honest a lot of the challenging stuff is more like a puzzle game.
     
  8. Panzaro

    Panzaro Making the rounds.

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    I checked the fic on Ao3 and instantly ran out of chapters, like all my LMD, EXP, and Sanity.

    And I just started playing Arknights a week ago and now I see a Arknights fanfic - what are the chances!
     
  9. NTR Commissar

    NTR Commissar Recreational RACIST

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    I'm still working out if I want to flesh out chapter 3 and 4 a little more before I post them here. I hate editing since I have to keep track of changes everywhere.

    It's such a fun game! The next Contingency Contract is coming soon, which is a rotating puzzle/challenge event that requires no Sanity to play. Also very rewarding (in in-game material rewards). I hope you give it a go!
     
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  10. Jjwizzle566

    Jjwizzle566 Not too sore, are you?

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    Oh damn, what a dick move on the leader of that group, infecting her with oripathy like that.
     
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  11. Threadmarks: Chapter 3 - Сестринство
    NTR Commissar

    NTR Commissar Recreational RACIST

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    A few years back I found myself at a certain crossroads. It was one that most good students in a developed nation would have to face. Namely, I was deciding where to take my studies, and perhaps, ultimately my career.

    While it was not a choice afforded to me as Tanya Degretyav, the Imperial orphan with a 'God-given talent for magic', I had experienced it once before as a young Japanese boy.

    In my first life, the choice came later than for some. There wasn't much in the way of elective studies in high school, so until I was sixteen or seventeen, life involved keeping my head down and frantically studying what I was told to, six days a week. They only abolished compulsory Saturday classes a few years after I graduated. Most of my childhood was a linear gauntlet of tests and examinations, but the choice did eventually come.

    I had been a little bewildered. My sole objective up until that point was obtaining good grades and doing what I was told, so the sudden abundance of options had seemed overwhelming. I did as my parents and high school career counsellor suggested and aimed for the business faculty in a suitably prestigious school. As it turned out, the prestige was more important for my resume than the specific degree I obtained, but the business faculty did introduce me to the Chicago School of Economics.

    I won't go into the details here, but suffice to say that I entered my third life with a greater understanding of the world around me, and I wasn't bewildered this time around.

    I hadn't turned thirteen yet when I was accepted into university. A consequence of living amongst elves and vampires was that, compared to Japan, there were fewer ironclad rules about what age was appropriate for what. Common sense restrictions still abounded, of course, but not when it came to harmless fields such as study. As long as I demonstrated that I had the maturity and the aptitude, any university was happy enough to hand out a scholarship irrespective of my age, and that included the University of Rudolphina.

    Naturally, neither maturity nor aptitude had been in question for me, so in the end it was a question of which discipline to choose.

    Ideally, I wanted to make a lot of money doing something I was already good at. Job satisfaction would have been a nice bonus, but as long as I was well compensated I didn't care what I was doing. I just wanted to live well.

    In my last days at the orphanage, on a cramped bunk on the third floor, I therefore found myself going through my skill set, highlighting which could be leveraged for the highest remuneration.

    The first was Originium Arts. Strictly speaking, it wasn't Originium Arts that I was proficient in. I had simply been an adequately skilled magician once, and that was enough. While Arts couldn't be considered a one-to-one parallel to the magic I remembered using, they shared the general concept of directing energy and instructions into a medium for encoding and assisted computation. This naturally meant that they shared many of the constituent skills required to utilise them. An understanding of the natural sciences, the ability to visualise, complex mental calculations, the aptitude for directing metaphysical energies—all of these had been honed in high stress environments where I was under time pressure to deliver.

    If I could do it while Being X conspired to have me shot out of the sky, I reasoned, I could perform doubly well when it was just a bossy project manager. Combined with the aptitude that this body was discovered to have with the Arts, it could have been an easy life as an Originium Arts technician.

    The other area was, of course, my experience in management.

    My life as a salaryman had endowed me with plenty of familiarity with balance sheets, and even more experience in project planning and project management. I worked efficiently, kept things within budget, communicated effectively with all stakeholders, and ensured things proceeded according to schedule.

    Leadership and team coordination were areas I was an old hand in as well. When I turned thirty-one, I joined my company's HR department. I learned there how to best manage and allocate our organisation's FTEs, even with free riders and troublemakers obstructing my duty. As for more direct management experiences, life as the head of the 203rd Imperial Flight Mage Battalion had familiarised me with the skill, and then my short time as deputy commander of Kampfgruppe Seven had applied it to a larger cohort.

    Either area would have served me well, and for a while I was truly torn.

    On the one hand, I didn't want to be pushed in front of a train again. My first death had come at the hands of an irrational and erratic drug addict, after all. Working with others would always pose the risk of unpredictable outliers, and the more humans I came into contact with, the higher that risk would be. It was simple mathematics, and unlike in my second life, I wouldn't be allowed to execute them. Even sending them to die in a bunker was illegal, and while I might be able to get away with murder, I would not break the law as a matter of principle.

    On the other hand, as much trouble as those outliers could cause, they were by definition few and far between. Off the top of my head, I could think of the aforementioned drug abuser, an American lunatic fighting for the Russies, and a pack of sad, petty, self-proclaimed deities. It would be a coward's choice to let a few rotten apples spoil working with others as a whole, and I had gained a lot of confidence in mentoring rookies. Visha, Grantz, Ponytail—all little puppies that I raised into wolves. I wouldn't have minded raising a few more in the corporate battlefield.

    In the end, after much agonising, the decision had been made to enter the General Finance stream at my new university. The considerations had been multifaceted and complex, but the two deciding factors had been simple enough.

    The first was that while the median salary of arts technicians was higher than those in finance, for those at the top of their respective fields, financial officers were far better paid.

    This was true enough in Leithania, but held even truer outside of my mother nation. Knowing already that I wanted to put some distance between myself and potential trouble from Loyalists, choosing a life in business over Arts would only further divorce myself from the image of 'the daughter of a Leithanian aristocrat that happily supported the insane Witch King'. The harder I was to recognise, the better.

    The second… was that the combination of 'little girl + war orphan + magic + conflict' was looking uncomfortably familiar, so I wanted to head that off as much as possible.

    It was therefore that after her initial testing, Tanja Müller never touched an Arts Unit more complex than an electric kettle again. Originium Arts was a complex field of applied science and metaphysical visualisation techniques. People trained and specialised for years upon years to utilise complex Originium Arts, and while I imagined I would be good at it, I had no illusions about actually being a qualified Arts Technician.

    All this to say that I was beyond surprised when I came out of my daze, only to realise I'd cast several thermal formulae, using for the foci what I could only assume were the crystallised Originium in my assailants themselves.

    I really didn't have the knowledge or skill to do such a thing. Or at least I hadn't known before this moment that I did.

    Was such a thing even possible? I had no idea, because as mentioned, I was not a qualified Arts Technician.

    Had I been brainwashed by Being X again? After all, he and his posse had proven to only ever be blunt instruments. 'Tanja needs to struggle to find faith. Oh, Tanja isn't struggling enough? Let's have a lunatic stab her, and then we'll give her a solution that brainwashes her.' The dual-core Elenium Type-95 Operation Orb allowed me to perform similarly impossible feats, and the price was barely-remembered religious blackouts.

    I would have known for sure had he finally appeared. Said something to me. Had at least one of his buddies appeared. Nobody did.

    I grunted, and applied pressure to my wound.

    No, even if I remembered nothing, it looked like what happened was that I lashed out in panic. My reaction had likely been all me. I could hardly complain about the threat being neutralised, but a part of me was irked that it hadn't been a calculated decision. I made impromptu decisions when I was a Flight Mage, of course, but beneath each of those was a careful consideration. This had simply been animal instinct.

    For all that I had lost none of the knowledge of my previous lives, there had been things I did lose with each death. I had to learn to speak again. I had to learn to walk again. Bayonet routines that had once been second nature were once again an ill fit for me. All things that had once come easily were turned into tests of focus and recollection. It was like the wood had marks pencilled in, so I knew precisely where to chisel, but the grooves themselves hadn't yet been carved.

    That had been fine with me, really. Even on the stage of Being X's self-directed drama, I was determined to prove that there was a place for a peace-loving and motivated businessman. I would never abandon my self-esteem or principles. All the more if the firearms in this world were held in monopoly by his church of all things. That blatant provocation had only galvanised my peaceable intentions.

    I was going to walk my own path, unreliant on him.

    As Tanya, he railroaded me into the military with a guaranteed conscription, and then his goon forced the Type-95 onto me. Otherwise, as a staunch pacifist, I would never have stepped foot in something as offensively wasteful as war, let alone lay waste to so many human resources. After all, within each poor sap that I killed lay the potential to bring us a step closer to a modernised, enlightened world. Even while doing what it took to survive the military, the Rhine, and then all the subsequent hells on earth, I was always determinedly seeking a non-combat role in the rear.

    Since he seemed intent on staying out of sight this time, I jumped headfirst into civilised, civilian work. I lived and breathed for study, followed the rules to the letter, through my efforts moved to somewhere safer, and maximised my efficiency in my new company. Always staying faithful to the idea of enriching both myself and society through innovation and dedicated labour. Every moment that I prospered under my ideals was a slap in Being X's face with the righteousness of the free market economy, and my rise was a meteoric one indeed. If only he had had the temper to listen to sense, this satisfaction could have been his from the start.

    I wouldn't ever be broken by his little tantrum, I swore.

    So how had it come to this?!

    I grimaced. Then I grimaced a second time when a spark of pain lanced through my gut. Everything was wet and hurting.

    I should never have stepped foot in Ursus. Little good came of Rus, in any world.

    I needed medical attention, and urgently. Leaning a shoulder against a wall and stifling a pained hiss, I examined my wound.

    Shit.

    I tried to recall what I could about first aid. What was this again? A stomach wound? The liver? …I'd have noticed a lung injury, I would think.

    It was probably too high to be the large intestine. And the object that would bleed me out if I removed it… I tried not to think about it, but this stone was probably Originium.

    The realisation would have turned my blood cold if I wasn't already freezing all over.

    I took off my scarf and made a crude doughnut around the object. Then I removed my blazer and lashed the doughnut tight into my stomach, applying pressure around the wound as best I could. That… would have to do for now.

    …I still wasn't entirely convinced that this wasn't Being X's doing. After all, even if some things in life were a coincidence, how could being reborn in a world of magic a second time be one? Especially as a war orphan. And a little girl. As far as I knew, that was pretty rare.

    I squinted.

    Was this some kind of houchi play, where I was supposed to feel humiliated at the neglect? Or was he still embarrassed about that car bomb?

    I hissed and propped an elbow against the concrete.

    Really? Nothing? No dramatic white space and bright clouds nonsense?

    There were clouds gathering in the sky, but they were dark and stormy, and my consciousness was firmly stuck in my body.

    I wondered what the chances were that this was simple, mundane misfortune.

    Time was running out. I tried to get off the wall and had to stifle another cry of pain.

    This was not even close to my first experience with penetrative injuries, but somehow things felt worse than ever.

    Was it because of the girth of the object? The crystal was narrow, but it was still about twenty millimetres in diameter. That was a larger hole than any of the optical spells had ever punched in me, and displaced more flesh than any knife wound I'd suffered, but I'd been injured so much worse even in my first sortie over Norden.

    It was only by pushing off the wall with my head, using the strength of my neck, that I was finally walking upright. Stumbling forward, I took a few quick, shallow breaths to clear my head.

    I glanced at the carnage.

    Gingerly dropping to my knees, I stripped a mostly intact hoodie from the closest corpse—the woman who stabbed me. First of all, it was getting cold without my blazer. Second of all, until I reached the police, an attempt at a disguise could only help me survive. With only a little hesitation, I removed the mask from her separated head. Hm. She was younger than me.

    Rifling through her pockets found me a general Arts Unit as well as a packet of cigarettes. I tsked. What a little delinquent. After some hesitation, I took both of them. As long as the recipient lit these far away from me, I wouldn't mind trading them away. As for the Arts Unit, it was just in case.

    To my left… Director Veselov… He was still breathing.

    I rose to my feet, and biting down the scream that threatened to escape me, I dragged him around the corner before releasing him behind a bin. If he had spinal trauma, or head injuries, this might have worsened them, but if I left him amongst the pieces of the Infected, he would be a dead man come the next group.

    Still might be, regardless.

    That was the best I could do for him. It was already quite cooperative of me to drag him around the corner with this gut wound. For a moment, an old, vicious part of me whispered that he could not take offence to being abandoned if he were dead.

    I quashed it. It was probably the smell of iron and burning flesh that was bringing that mindset back. Between the blood loss and the earlier concussion, I wasn't in the right headspace to be making split-second decisions, so I stuck to the plan a more cogent Tanja had developed. I moved west.

    I needed to leave before the smell attracted their friends, and I was in dire need of medical attention.

    The trek was a slog. What had once seemed like a long, but manageable jog, had turned into an endless ordeal. Everything was awful, prolonged, wet agony.

    It felt awful.

    I couldn't help but wonder again. It was strange. The injuries I survived in Moskva made this wound look like a scratch. The sortie that earned me my alias was even worse.

    Was it because this body never built up its pain tolerance, or did the Analgesic Spell make that much of a difference? The spell had never made things painless, exactly, but maybe I was underplaying its effectiveness if this was abdominal trauma without it.

    I forced myself to take another step. And another. Again and again, my feet fell upon the utilitarian concrete, as I continued my exodus west. As my mood worsened, so too did the skies. It looked like a storm was coming. Once more, I couldn't help but wonder if that band of devils had a hand in this. The grey skies certainly fit Being X's taste for the dramatic.

    As I considered how waterproof the hood of my stolen jumper might be, I realised that one of my antlers had been chipped. Thank everything that I couldn't feel my horns. The last thing I wanted was the pain of a broken bone on top of everything else.

    I continued to make my way down the increasingly dark and foggy street.

    The more time passed, the worse the chaos got. I heard more and more screaming, both before and behind me.

    More bystanders attacked for the quality of their clothes? For not being Infected? It felt like the whole city was screaming out.

    I grunted and limped around another fucking truck. Peered through its windows. No key.

    The truck behind the coffee shop had had a key. Hadn't thought to take it because we were trying to be discreet. Might not have been stabbed if we had.

    The blood that covered my front had long gone cool. I suspected that I might have been lying still on the ground by now if the humans of Terra hadn't been so much more robust.

    How long had I been walking now? Ten minutes? Twenty?

    I checked my watch. Seven.

    There was a small plaza ahead that interrupted the service street. As I approached, I could smell the scent of burning hair again. That was not a good sign.

    I ignored the pain in my gut—more proof that humans could get used to anything—and carefully peered around the corner. The mist had grown thick and ominous, but I welcomed anything that might help conceal me.

    There was no longer any question about where that smell emanated from; there were flames everywhere, and even through the mist I saw small piles of corpses. The mob of Infected had lost all reason and attacked Ursine civilians. Apparently I had been limping so slowly that I missed all the chaos. Either that or this particular group was especially insane.

    I looked on, dumbfounded, at the scene. Even through the fog, I was sure some were women and children. This was hardly my first burning city, but I couldn't help but be taken aback. Were they trying to kill every un-Infected in the city?

    The bourgeoisie-led Jacobin Terror had inspired the Red Terror, in which the persecuted were ironically the bourgeoisie. Between their bourgeoisie targets and political dissenters, the Bolsheviks had slain over a hundred thousand people, but that had only been managed by swindling the uneducated masses into providing overwhelming support.

    These lunatics could never manage that, so what could their end goal possibly be?

    I scanned the plaza while I listened carefully. I was still surrounded by atrocities and violence, if the wailing I could hear beneath the conflagration's roar was indication, but the plaza itself was fortuitously empty of the living. Just fire and corpses here.

    I let out a ragged breath. With the way Ursus liked to keep their Infected numbers down, there wasn't enough manpower to sweep the nation in revolution. No matter how much senseless violence they peddled today, it would all be over the moment the Ursine military moved in. For all of their failures in recent decades—the failure to take Kazimierz, the Russo-Japanese War's Terran counterpart, and then Ursus' own civil war—the Ursus military was not to be trifled with. Everybody knew that. How could these terrorists not?

    I put the thought out of my mind. It wasn't my problem. I doubted the answer would change what I had to do.

    My fingers found the Arts Unit I had taken from that woman. I had to admit that I was tempted.

    Generally speaking, it was beyond inadvisable to use a general Arts Unit without knowing what you were doing. On the other hand, it seemed that either Arts came naturally to me, or people were greatly exaggerating its complexity. If I could already cast thermal formulae with raw Originium, then with the encoding support of Arts Units to skip calculation steps…

    Flight magic would still be out of the question—there would be no computing that in my head—but a protective shell only required a single point of reference. Even without the formula programmed into a computational orb, wasn't it possible that I could cast it? Was I willing to try?

    I weighed the risks and outcomes in my head, and the analysis said no. Using a looted Arts Unit to cast Arts on myself, without training or practice, was simply tempting fate. As today proved once more, I wasn't a lucky person. The fact that it seemed like it would be easy was just another red flag. My hand left my pocket.

    Instead, after making one final sweep of the plaza for rioters, I limped out of cover towards the ruins of a bookstore, in front of which sat a tour bus. It was tall and would hide my form as I made my way around, which would do just fine for now.

    To be honest, I was growing desperate. If after all this time I only managed to reach an area the rioters had already swept through, how much further back must the MP garrison be? Originally I had worried about taking off the hoodie before the police saw me, but that was beginning to seem worryingly needless.

    Under my stolen mask, I glanced back down the way I came. If I went back to the hotel, would I find better care, or just a more comfortable grave? What were the chances of a doctor in the hotel, if it hadn't been overrun by these lunatics?

    No, my only chance of survival was moving forwards. I continued onwards, tracing the sides of the plaza, ears constantly in motion beneath the hood to apprise me of any newcomers to the area. But I made it to the other side just fine, and continued down another service street.

    Was I going to die again? Here?

    If only I had my computational orb, I could have used the flight formula to get out of here.

    No, if only I had hired a bodyguard before coming to this shithole.

    The Executive Officer who headed the Lungmen branch kept a Kazimierzan tourney knight as his bodyguard, which I had always considered a quirk of his enthusiasm for knightsports. Nobody else had bodyguards, after all. After today, however, I was beginning to see the appeal.

    If I was on the salary of a senior partner, I could hire a whole squad of bodyguards indefinitely, but one guard would be better than nothing.

    The dizziness had gotten bad enough that I had to focus not to stumble, even as I stubbornly ignored the further encroaching cold, and the numbness of my hands. At some point the skies had turned black, and overcast. Dying from hypothermia in the rain was looking more and more likely.

    I grit my teeth and continued up the road.

    When I got back to Lungmen I was going to look into hiring a Columbian veteran, or nice Goliath mercenary to take arrows for me.

    Trading specialisations in a free economy was the basis of human civilisation. If focusing on being a productive employee meant that I couldn't fight as well, then I would simply pay somebody to do it for me. Never again would I rely on ghosts, devils, or prayers.

    Never again would— Oh, there was a key in that truck.

    Mastering my lightheadedness, I clambered into the driver's seat. Fuel seemed fine. I turned the key. Engine was starting up.

    It seemed like things were finally looking up for me. So it was just bad luck after all. I would have chuckled if it didn't hurt to. The worst day of my life, and it was all just a coincidence.

    The air-conditioner was already set to turn on with the engine, and the growing warmth in the truck cabin was driving away the bone-deep cold.

    I didn't really want to draw too much attention to myself by driving, but I had already lost too much blood. It was already a wonder that I had survived this long. The shard must have missed any arteries, but I was still bleeding regardless. I needed to cover more ground and find medical assistance already. The truck could be my only hope, I concluded grimly.

    After I fastened the seatbelt, careful to avoid my injury, I touched the Arts Unit in my pocket again.

    From what I understood of Originium Arts, casting on an object like the truck would be safer than on my body. If I was being honest with myself, though, the reason I was willing to try it now was simply because I was more desperate.

    I cast a defensive shell anchored on the truck's position, and lo and behold, it worked without tearing the vehicle apart. I rolled down a window and tossed a coin from the dashboard tray. When it reached where I knew the shell was, it bounced off of it as expected. I nodded with weary satisfaction. Hopefully I wouldn't have to cast it on myself when I left this truck, but at least I now knew that I could.

    With everything ready, I began driving down the street. Even if I died in this thing, at least I would die warm. With one hand I flicked through frequencies on the radio for anything useful. Surely at this juncture the Ursine authorities would have given up on saving face?

    The results were too disappointing to mention. Perhaps it had been no coincidence that Russia was the birthplace of Communism.

    I should have been driving slower. The mist made everything hard to see. But it also made my new truck hard to see, so I gambled on not crashing into a building and went fast enough to kill any rioters who got in the way.

    I focused on keeping the passive shell up, and keeping the steering wheel straight.

    I was cold, but it was so warm in here…



    My eyes shot open when I was flung painfully towards the windshield, caught only by my seatbelt. I cursed and doubled over in agony as whatever did this jostled the shard in me.

    "Get fucked, Imperial dogs!"

    "Пошли нa хуй!"

    "Fuck you! Fuck you!"


    What the hell was going on?

    Dazedly, I looked up through the window and what I saw made my stomach drop. My truck was sitting between two halves of a barricade because the truck had punched right through. My defensive shell was down, I realised.

    Before my eyes, hollering rioters flooded through the breach and began brawling with the police on the other side, and scattered on the ground were the broken bodies of a few more Ursine Guards. My truck had probably hit them, I realised.

    Oh no. No, no, no.

    I quickly put the truck into reverse and tried to escape. The rioters parted around me with great cheer and continued to assail the gap I made.

    "Elafia sisterrrr! Whooooo!" I heard one of them scream as I made a three-point-turn and hightailed out of there.
     
  12. Gigler

    Gigler Getting sticky.

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    Hoo9h. That's kinda sad. My Ursue bros and sis. That's kinda rocked up.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
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    [​IMG]
    Истина (Istina, the second image) is obviously my fav gal
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2022
  13. Darik29

    Darik29 Verified Delicious

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    I must admit, i read ahead on what was availableon Ao3. This story is and continues to be friggin amazing, and i am eager as heck to witness what happens next! Love the direction this is heading.
     
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  14. NTR Commissar

    NTR Commissar Recreational RACIST

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    Thank you! I'm having an argument over there with al103 about chapter 4 and cat tails right now lol.

    [​IMG]
    She's... probably a Perro?
     
  15. Pringus

    Pringus Getting some practice in, huh?

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    The combination of cat ears and dog tail means a vulpo. Cat + Dog = Fox.
    Just like GoldenGlow's folded ears + pink = pig.
     
  16. Panzaro

    Panzaro Making the rounds.

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    Namie will haunt your dreams for that lol. GG is based on the Scottish Fold cat breed, GG's real name is Susie which is also the name of the very first cat of the breed.

    Mousse is a catgirl.
    And Ansel is a boy - at least Astolfo had short hair.
     
  17. NTR Commissar

    NTR Commissar Recreational RACIST

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    You know, when I reading that first line I wasn't convinced, but decided to go with Vulpo anyway because I like foxes.

    Then I read the second line and realised you definitely know what you're talking about.

    EDIT: Ugh, just realised I'd have to change this in four places: FFN, AO3, my Google Doc, and then the other Google Doc that my beta readers don't have access to where I do my drunk writing.
     
  18. Renko

    Renko Demon Lord of the Sixth Heaven ~☆

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    NTR Commissar

    This is great! I don't know what's really going on but I'm liking what I read so far.

    Question: Do you have any images or fanarts that shows what Tanya looks like in this new life that she found herself into?

    It kinda feels empty and unsatisfying that she wasn't the one who ended that woman's life.

    What an #sshole.

    :V
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2022
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  19. Gigler

    Gigler Getting sticky.

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    Question for the ages, is Amiya a rabbit girl, or a donkey girl? Author, what do you think?
     
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  20. NTR Commissar

    NTR Commissar Recreational RACIST

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    lol she did though
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2022
  21. Renko

    Renko Demon Lord of the Sixth Heaven ~☆

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    I don't understand. Huh?

    :confused:
     
  22. Darik29

    Darik29 Verified Delicious

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    Tanya did kill the bitch who infected her with Oripathy. She just blacked out during the process due to Sheer Rage.
     
  23. Renko

    Renko Demon Lord of the Sixth Heaven ~☆

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    Would have been nice to see the whole thing in the perspective of that infected woman for better context.

    I thought Tanya blacked out after getting stabbed and something happened with the infected group that killed all of them while she was out.

    :confused:
     
  24. Darik29

    Darik29 Verified Delicious

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    Nah. Tanya is a hyper lethal combatant when pushed to the edge, and has an entire lifetime of experience as The premier warmage for the Empire in her soul. Seeing that one bitch basically guarantee her slow, painful death to Oripathy caused Tanya to snap and let her inner Devil out to rage for abit.

    Then they died, violently, messily, and above all else Extremely quickly.

    so perspective from that end would be maybe ten seconds of horror or disbelief before going kersplitch
     
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  25. Renko

    Renko Demon Lord of the Sixth Heaven ~☆

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    It kinda sucks that this whole thing have to be explained in discussion and outside of the story!

    The ending sentence of the second chapter doesn't give any proper hints to what actually happened. It just showed that Tanya blacked out and woke up surrounded by the bodies of her assailants!

    Where is the implication that Tanya really went into a blind rage after getting stabbed!?

    There's NOTHING!

    :mad:
     
  26. NTR Commissar

    NTR Commissar Recreational RACIST

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    Mhm. It's in the third chapter.

    EDIT: The implication is that using the Originium in the assailants' bodies as both the energy source and the encoder, she excited the matter surrounding them. The water content in their bodies would have gone gaseous and caused some degree of explosion.
     
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  27. Renko

    Renko Demon Lord of the Sixth Heaven ~☆

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    If that's what really happened then why wasn't it implied in the previous chapter in the first place!? The whole thing just feels "disconnected"!

    The second chapter states that Tanya blacked out. There is nothing implying that she did something to her attackers!

    And then the third chapter states that she actually did perform an attack of sorts against them!? Where did that came from!?

    *sigh*

    :confused:
     
  28. Extras: Extremely Hypothetical combat-Tanja's Operator Records
    NTR Commissar

    NTR Commissar Recreational RACIST

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    Extremely Hypothetical combat-Tanja's Operator Records

    CASTER

    Riemann

    Art: Chika Tojo  CV: Aoi Yuki

    ——Files

    Basic Info

    [Code Name] Riemann
    [Gender] Female
    [Combat Experience] None
    [Place of Birth] Leithania
    [Date of Birth] December 23*
    [Race] Elafia
    [Height] 173cm
    [Infection Status] Tests show visible internal blotches, infection confirmed by medical examination.

    Clinical Analysis
    Imaging tests reveal indistinct outlines of internal organs, with visible dark spots. Unusually high concentrations of Originium particles were present in the circulatory system, indicating signs of infection at this time.

    [Cell-Originium Assimilation] 7%
    Clear traces of Originium markings on the patient’s midsection, but has yet to crystallise.

    [Blood Originium-Crystal Density] 0.19u/L
    Early stage infection, currently not spreading.

    ——Audio Records

    Onboard:
    Riemann, on secondment from Coopers & Harding. I will be in your care once again, Doctor. My code name? It’s a private joke.

    Appointed as Assistant: Miss Amiya has forwarded me your schedule.

    Talk 1: Doctor, the budget for the expenditure hasn't― You have no control over that? Very well.

    Idle: Sleeping on the job… The privileges of being a Senior Executive.

    Watching Battle Record: Astonishing. If only C&H executives were provided such a security force.

    Promotion 1: It is non-traditional for the host entity to pay bonuses during secondment, but I applaud Rhodes Island’s innovatory attitude.

    Added to Squad: Ready to support from the rear.

    Appointed as Squad Leader: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to earn our salaries.

    Assigned to Facility: I’ve lived in much smaller before.

    Tap: T-This is pawahara!
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2022
  29. Darik29

    Darik29 Verified Delicious

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    it's implied by the fade to blank. Literary story telling at its best in my opinion. No telling, just showing and letting readers come to their own conclusions!
     
  30. Renko

    Renko Demon Lord of the Sixth Heaven ~☆

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    Instead of coming with my own conclusion, all I got is confusion!

    :V
     
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