Nichole and Celeste sit in her lab. Nichole seemingly confused.
Nichole: Azure? You have what?
Celeste: I know, it’s a lot to take in.
Estelle: The anomaly in master’s system was introduced haphazardly. It is still very unstable. Master must still use caution.
Celeste: This scar (pointing to just underneath her shoulders, right above her chest), that’s where the shard was introduced. Rather forcefully.
Nichole: So you didn’t get a choice in the matter.
Celeste: No. I didn’t. Tabor forced it into me. Somehow, can’t explain why, but I’m still alive despite that.
Nichole: You weren’t supposed to...bond with this thing?
Celeste: That’s not what was supposed to happen I’m guessing.
Estelle: Master’s systems are integrated with the anomaly. If the anomaly is removed, Master’s systems will fail. It is highly advised not to remove.
Nichole: And what is this thing that keeps talking?
Estelle: I am not a thing, Master.
Celeste: Of course not. That is Estelle. Careful. She has a bit of my personality too.
Nichole: How did you create that th...er, Estelle.
Celeste: I cheated. I used my parents technology. They were more ingenious in that field than I was, so I used their notes to create her. Everything that integrates with Estelle is my doing.
Estelle: I am still happy to be with Master.
Celeste: Bringing some modern tech on to the battlefield was not my intention, but I have no choice if I am going to go after that Bastard, Tabor.
Nichole: Got you really riled up.
Celeste: The only reason I have yellow eyes is because of him.
Nichole: (awkwardly) Oh.
Celeste: Which leads me to my next question, where have you been? Why did you show up here? Why now?
Nichole: (exasperated sigh) Because your family moves so frequently, it was hard to find you. Once I did have time to come meet you, I found your place only to find it surrounded by...how would you put it?
Celeste: Oh, the handmade caution tape.
Nichole: Sure, let’s go with that. You weren’t there, so I checked around town. Word was Kagura had been around and been (struggles as she tries find the right words)...not really terrorizing, but…
Celeste: (nodding apprehensively) I get what you’re trying to say.
Nichole: So that was my lead, that lead me here, thinking that Kagura had kidnapped you.
Celeste: I could see how someone could come to that conclusion.
Nichole: So I came here to find you, and rescue you. Only to find (motioning towards her lab) all of this.
Celeste: Yeah it’s definitely different.
Nichole: Also, I wanted to see my friend again.
Celeste: I missed you too, Nichole. It’s good to have a friendly face.
Nichole: So I have a request.
Celeste: And that is…?
Nichole: Could you make me a new weapon?
Celeste becomes wide-eyed and looks back at Nichole.
Celeste: (trying to understand) Are you nuts?
Nichole: Quite sane, actually.
Celeste: This a whole different level than what you’re used to.
Nichole: Yes, but I’m probably the only one who can train you without ripping through you.
Celeste: (has a revelation) Fair point. And anyone on our side is a good thing. I can’t promise an AI like Estelle, but…
Nichole: You can use my personality.
Celeste: (takes her time before responding) Ok...it’ll still take some time before I have the necessary pieces to have everything done, what do you…
Nichole: (interrupting) A rapier.
Celeste: (nods) Understood.
With that, Nichole leaves the room, only to find Kagura and Hibiki standing there.
Kagura: So then, we have a small question or two for you I suppose??
Nichole: I’m listening.
Kagura: First question is how the hell did you use those tree branches? I never seen such ars magus or even true magic to that degree.
Nichole: I’m a mage born from Ishana. I had power to use nature and earth to my whim.
Kagura: I see, an impressive power I will note the second question (sighs) how long are you intending on staying here?? I mean I can understand if you don’t want to leave but that just makes another bit of number crunching if you want full pay like your friend.
Nichole: Then let’s put it this way, you were going to arrest me for everything that happened. Let’s make a trade, for not putting me away I will work as Celeste’s bodyguard for no pay.
Kagura: Very well then, I can trust you to keep good watch over her. I wouldn’t expect any less from someone like you.
Nichole: Good, then that’s settled. I have one more caveat.
Kagura: Very well, what is it?
Nichole: You so much as look at me the wrong way, I have complete control over your alcohol money.
Kagura: I see you and Hibiki getting along swimmingly.
Hibiki: The caveat is agreed to. Kagura will not make any advances on you, hit on you, or approach you with any intent of being sexually harassing.
Kagura: Seriously you can trust me. To find someone who can keep up with me is rather impressive, but as promised I shall avoid such acts (sighs), kinda admit after having lost their alcohol part of the budget I feel today is gonna make matters worse.
A small time passes as Celeste gets to work. Before long, with Nichole’s input for design, Celeste creates the next AI. This one flat, just like Estelle, but in the color and shape of a green diamond. Celeste gets to work getting to begin its operations.
Celeste: (apprehensively) Alright, same framework, same tech, this should work without the weapon created.
Celeste inputs the command for start-up.
???: (dignified deep female voice with traces of computer like sound) Startup Initiated. Verifying all systems. Confirmed. Running self-diagnostic. Confirmed. Finishing Startup. I am ready. Please give me orders.
Celeste and Nichole look at the piece of tech, seemingly ready to go.
Celeste: (surprised) Didn’t think I’d have it up and going first try.
Nichole: Still odd to me for sure.
???: Please verify orders.
Celeste motions to Nichole to pick it up and she quietly does so.
???: Fingerprints registered. Identity confirmed. Nichole Akiyama registered. How may I serve you milady?
Nichole turns to Celeste.
Nichole: (awkwardly) milady?
Celeste: (shrugging, not sure what to make of it) Followed the notes exactly, don’t know why she started speaking like that. (jokingly) Do you go to medieval fairs in your spare time?
Nichole: (unamused) Not funny.
Nichole: Milady, may I have a name?
Nichole: How’s Isabelle?
Isabelle: Registering. Understood. Isabelle Version 1 is ready milady.
Nichole: Could get used to that.
Celeste: Don’t. Still got a bunch of work to do yet. Gotta create your sword.
Nichole: Come to think of it, how did you do your weapon?
Celeste: It took me hours, days, but I have energy reserve built up so I can use that power without having to use my normal power.
Nichole: So are you saying you couldn’t do that for me?
Celeste: How would you propose I do that? You don’t have Azure, it wouldn’t be that simple.
Nichole: You couldn’t create something?
Celeste: Creating reserves with nothing to fill it with would serve no purpose.
Nichole: Then what could you fill it with?
Celeste: (getting visibly annoyed) Are you proposing I fill it with magic? There’s nothing that could give you a reasonable boost to your power.
Nichole: What if there was?
Celeste: What point of there’s no such th-
Nichole: (interrupting) What if I can get it for you?
Celeste: (irked) What is it?
Celeste: (wide-eyed) Do you know what you’re asking?
Celeste: (stands up and walks away from computer) No. I won’t put you at risk.
Nichole: (moves in front of Celeste) Then what else could you use?
Celeste: (Irritated) I don’t know.
Nichole: Why don’t you know?!
Celeste: (frustrated) Because this isn’t my field! I don’t understand it like my parents do!
Nichole: (keeping eye-contact) Then stop thinking like your parents!
An awkward silence fills the room, as the both of them finally calm down.
Nichole: Start thinking like the genius you want to be.
With that, Nichole finally exits the room. She walks right past Kagura, who had kept his ear to the door and had been listening in on the argument. Celeste turns around. She walks, leisurely, towards her desk and sits. Her body relaxes into the chair as she puts her right hand to the chin. She holds the bottom of her jaw as she tries to piece together a plan. Nichole had no ars magus proficiency but she had excellent swordsmanship. She’d be able to handle a sword. Using her own azure would be a definite risk, she wasn’t sure herself if she could handle it. She’d only used it to protect herself so far.
Celeste: (intently focused, thinking aloud) There’s gotta be something I’m missing. What is it…? What could I use to create a power boost in a focused attack that isn’t seithr or azure?
Estelle: (off-screen) Master.
Celeste: (too intently focused to hear Estelle) …
Estelle: (off-screen, again) Master.
Celeste: (hears her this time) Yes, what is it Estelle?
Estelle: (off-screen) I have been doing searches based on your line of questioning and I have an answer.
Celeste: (incredulous) What? (turns her chair around and looks at Estelle) What answer?
Estelle: I believe the quote is: “There is more than one way to skin a cat,” Master.
Celeste has a sudden realization.
Celeste: Estelle, get me the composition for fire.
Under this realization, Celeste sets to work. Using a potent mixture of explosive chemicals, she creates the first bullet.
Celeste: Estelle give me a reasonable estimate of this working.
Estelle: Likelihood of successful result is fifty percent, master.
Celeste: Yeah, thought it might be risky. Is it what we were hoping for?
Estelle: When exposed to the oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air, test should be successful.
Celeste: We can only hope, right?
Estelle: I believe, Master.
Celeste: Well, then let’s hope this containment field works. Otherwise, I’m going to have to start from scratch on the defense protocol.
On the wall, an active containment field that was one of the containers that Celeste had activated. She was going to shoot right into it. She places the goggles over her face. She loads the bullet into a makeshift gun. Celeste aims right at the containment field.
Celeste: Here we go Estelle. In three...two...one…
She fire out of the chamber and immediately as it enters into the chamber the concoction becomes volatile. It erupts into a fiery explosion, but the chamber holds up.
Celeste: Everything looks good as a contained explosion now I just need to tweak the function to be contained within a sword.
The door opens as Kagura bursts in, after hearing the explosion.
Kagura: What the hell just happened?! Did I hear a bomb go off?!
Celeste looks over at Kagura.
Celeste: Yes, in a sense, I’m in the middle of an experiment at the moment.
Kagura sees the fiery bursts being controlled by a sphere of yellow energy.
Kagura: How the hell are you doing that? Nearly thought Kokonoe left a bomb in here or something for a second…
Celeste removes the goggles from her face and lets them hang around her neck.
Celeste: I’m using a containment of azure in order to protect everyone from the explosion of the combustible elements.
Kagura: Very intuitive work. I like that, saves the trouble of damaging the data and saves us from a repair bill at that.
Celeste: Can’t exactly fill a bullet with magic, and she doesn’t have ars magus proficiency and I don’t want to use seithr.
Kagura: Whatever the case, I like the approach you’re taking with it. Just next time warn me before you do this so it doesn’t seem like a bomb blown up, all right???
Celeste: Then stop spying on me.
Kagura: Well what else was I gonna do when I heard an explosion a few floors down? Nearly spilt water on my paperwork, but very well, I’ll leave you to this…
Celeste: You’re a very bad liar, you know that? I could hear you just outside here, just like you have been in the past. Would explain why you were so quick here, if you were a few floors away, it should’ve taken longer.
Kagura: I get concerned about that damn grimoire. I don’t want it to cause an overreaction like last time and I most certainly have to be careful in case tabor gets himself inside. I’d have Hibiki make routine checks but (sighs) even then he’s busy with his own duties…
Celeste: Don’t get me wrong, but wasn’t it because Hibiki was already making his rounds that he caught Nichole sneaking in? I would think he would’ve stopped Tabor before he got in. And the grimoire hasn’t overreacted since it was inserted.
Kagura: Shit, you got me there again, but still (sighs) I know Hibiki better than probably anyone in this building. I trust him enough to keep everyone safe, and not just me but that’s off topic. Good to know the grimoire hasn’t reacted too much since it was placed in. (shakes his head) I will admit your friend is rather headstrong for a mage of Ishana. I commend her fighting ability to keep up with me
Celeste: It wasn’t much of a fair fight. She barely used any of her mage powers, do you realize that? That means one of two things, either she has very little proficiency in magic and is still learning how to utilize it, or she doesn’t have much magic to begin with. At the same time, she was trying to overwhelm you with her speed, though after a few strikes with your power, she couldn’t keep up.
Kagura: Yeah, I was trying my best to hold back in all honesty. Since after a few well landed strikes, it just didn’t seem all that it was cut out to be. The only reason I ended it was so that she’d still have energy to run off. I don’t fight people for fun, let alone someone who’s your friend, even though despite the accusations. (sighs) Never mind, the idea is, even holding back it just felt wrong to actually hit a woman.
Celeste: Of course you don’t fight people for fun. You may be a pervert, but you’re not a sadist. At the same time, you’ve fought people before who were women, haven’t you? Stories of you fighting with other people back in a previous conflict. Let alone, you didn’t know the person in question was a woman. I think she would be more offended if you held back because she was a woman. She has her pride too.
Kagura: Right, but even then back in my prime. It’s a different story for a different day. And trust me I at least toned it down from back then, my perverted tendencies not my fighting, and trust me I personally am not the kind of guy that seems to be a regretless lech. I at least consider them as people. Hell if anything I consider you like (sighs), dammit what I’m trying to say is you’re someone worth fighting for. And I got lots more on that list, but you’re on there and I’d be willing to put my life on the line if I had to for those people.
The explosion finally fades along with the containment field. Celeste openly sighs.
Celeste: I appreciate having you as an ally, for sure, and I appreciate you protecting me in my weak moment when I was in no way able to defend myself, I never said you didn’t have some redeeming qualities.
Kagura: Trust me. Sometimes it’s hard to find something like that in myself. (sighs) If you need anything just say so. Aside a training dummy, I prefer Hibiki not to clean up my spilt blood on the floor. I’m sure he’d be disappointed in me somehow.
Celeste: Actually, you just reminded me, I do need a full test run of my weapon so I could use a sparring partner here in a little bit.
Kagura: That’s convenient. Well, it is, but, at the same time I’m afraid that thing is powerful enough to send me into the nearest wall. Did you at least fix recoil? Because last time I saw that thing, it looked bigger than your arm.
Celeste: This is a different weapon altogether. It is fully in tune with my systems.
Estelle: (off-screen) I am prepared if Master would like to train.
Kagura: …? Wait, what was that? I know the voice, but what is it?
Celeste walks over and picks up a yellow device. The square yellow AI that had integrated with Celeste. She holds it up to Kagura as she speaks.
Estelle: I am Estelle. A fully automated AI integrated with Master’s systems. The anomaly that you define as, ‘Grimoire’, is currently under control with no anomaly detected. Master’s blood pressure and nervous systems are showing normal. Master’s systems are green.
Celeste: Estelle is fully integrated into everything, including tapped into the Azure. So if something happens, Estelle will warn me first.
Kagura: Huh, that’s an interesting tidbit. It’s, uh, nice to meet her. I assume you’ve made this a bit before that duel, huh?
Estelle: Correct. Retrieving information. The Black Knight, Kagura Mutsuki. Data stored. Greetings.
Kagura: Hey? (slightly nervous wave) Honestly, a bit confused, but I’ll do my best to adapt to talking with her. Not the first thing of this sort I seen, but this is a nice idea you have going.
Estelle: Incorrect. I am an original.
Celeste: She has part of my personality too.
Kagura: Ah, interesting, so in a sense there’s now two of you?
Celeste: More like an extension.
Kagura: Close enough. Still I am impressed with that. How do you do it? Or is that a secret?
Celeste: I had to use some of my parent’s technology since that’s more their field. Using that to create the AI device, it now interfaces with everything. So when hooked up to my weapon, it’ll let me know how I’m doing with regards to power and if I’m still okay.
Kagura: interesting. I admit that definitely helps matters. You seem to think of a lot with your works when it comes down to the bottom of it all.
Celeste: I have to. It started as a way of just monitoring my systems and it went from there.
Kagura: All right. But anyways, I commend you on the entire concept. Estelle is definitely a welcome addition as well. Anyways, unless we’re having the spar right now, let me know when I can come down. Okay?
Hibiki, having just appeared behind them, speaks up.
Hibiki: I shall prepare a training field for you.
Kagura, almost suddenly jumps from the sudden shock from hearing Hibiki.
Kagura: Shit, you're quick. Convenient timing too. (sighs) Now I know how jinny felt whenever you snuck up on him.
On the next episode:
I've got a lot of my plate when I challenge the famous Black Knight himself to a duel so I can field test Estelle. But there's one caveat. If I lose, I have to go back to the drawing before I can get approval to both use my newfound 'Azure' and use my powers to fight against Tabor. This is a fight I can't afford to lose! Next episode: Gear A8: Test Run. Get Ready Kagura! You're going to get a taste of my new tech!