“Do you understand what you are getting yourself into?” Dead-shot asked him with worry in her voice.
“That still doesn’t mean that I can just leave her alone, right?” Ace asked back with an awkward tone. “I mean, I seriously doubt she is as dangerous as they make her be.”
“But what if she’s just pretending?”
“Then she should join a theater and become a star, because it would be one hell of an act.” Ace half joked before shaking his head. “Anyway, I seriously doubt that she’s some kind of dangerous being. At least not voluntarily.” He looked around the secret hideout of the techie before turning back to her. “And I’m counting on you to find out if she can be a danger involuntarily.”
“Aah…” Deaddie sighed with an ‘as I guessed’ expression, shaking her head in defeat. “You do know there’s a chance that you might get into a scuff with Genesis, right?”
Those words served to make the knightish hero freeze for a moment. After some time, he finally nodded.
“Well, yeah… Somewhat.” He said weakly. “But I don’t think there’s much they can do if she become recognized as a citizen. Even more as a hero.”
“Wait, she already got her certificate?” The cow-girl asked surprised while staring at him wide eyed.
“Not yet. It’ll take a couple of days for her to get it, but if I talk to her, it shouldn’t be hard to have her stay quiet and hidden for these days.” Ace said while staring at the eagerly excited slime.
“But, what if they find you out before then? And you have to end up fighting Genesis?” She asked worried.
“Then … Welll…” He said with a worried look. “I MIGHT have a chance to survive? Not entirely sure about that.”
“See? You… Wait, what?” Dead-shot suddenly stopped in surprise and confusion as she processed the words from her friend. “Are you saying that you can defeat Genesis in a straight up duel?”
“Well… Not exactly.” Ace said with an awkward tone. “Let’s say that I do have a couple of tricks up my sleeve that might or might not work against her.” He scratched the back of his helmet as if an habit. “That said, it would most likely only work if she seriously underestimated me… And it would most certainly only work once… And even then there’s a chance of me screwing up… And if there’s anyone else with her then nothing would work anymore…”
“…That sounds so reliable…” Deaddie said as sarcasm overflowed from her words. “Though, how would you even pull that off? No offense, but with your skillset and gear, I really can’t see you defeating her anytime soon.”
“Well, it’s not as much of a matter of having the needed skills so much as having an ace up my sleeve.” He corrected her. “I have these enchanted weapons that are… Well, much more effective than the normal weapons I use.”
“And those weapons can take on even S-rankers?” She asked back in disbelief. “Why don’t you use them more?”
“Well… It’s complicated. if I were to categorize them on power alone, I’d say that they are, at most, one or two ranks above me.” He had a complicated expression under his helmet as he tried to explain his situation. “So, maybe they’d leave me on par with a B-rank? Possibly, with some luck, a lower A-ranker. But that’s about it.”
“Yet we are talking about an upper S-ranker.”
“Yeah. That’s why I said it’s more of a trick than an actual asset and that it’s nowhere near definite. You see, one of those weapons is actually a pretty good match against certain spells, and that’s where I’d be betting everything.”
“I see…” Deadshot said with a tone of disbelief while sitting down in a machine and holding her head on her hand, seemingly thinking about something. “Then… Why have you never used it before? Or rather, how did you even get your hands on something like that?”
“Well, the reason for never using them is pretty simple.” Ace said awkwardly. “They all have some conditions that make it really bad to use them. One is downright dangerous to even wield, and if possible I’d rather not even touch it again. Another one is bloody expensive and would eat through my money reserves like there’s no tomorrow. And the last one… Well… I simply can’t use it. That’s pretty much the reason.”
“…Why do I feel that the second one is the one you want to use the least?”
“It’s just your imagination.” He denied it outright. “But well, jokes aside, as for how I got them… Well, the expensive one was what made me first realize I could use magic and pretty much set me on the path to become a magician.” That can’t use most spells and have to rely in rituals. There was no need to add this part, but he did make a frown thinking about it. “I found it while I was wandering around a certain artifact store. The dangerous one I got tangled with a certain gang that was trying to sell it to another one.” He took his hand towards the scar near his eyes. “I’m not really sure how they got their hands on it, but ever since then I had to keep it since it seems to have bonded to me or something.”
“What do you mean by bonded? You mean, like it’s fused with you or something?”
“I worded that wrongly… I guess that cursed sounds a bit better? Basically, even if I throw it away or give it to somebody else, it just appears under my pillow the following night.”
“Eek! That’s scary!!” Deadshot said horrified as her body shivered. “I-Is that thing with you r-right now?” She asked while looking around. For some time, Ace just stared at her in surprise and shock, being caught completely off guard by the girl’s reaction.
“…Are you actually bad with horror stories?” He asked surprised, and all that Deadshot did was to nod weakly while covering her mouth with her hands as her eyes darted around nervously. “…Why don’t we leave the talk about weapons for later and we go back to our matter at hand?” He offered the idea, to which the girl nodded nervously while sighing in relief.
She wasn’t entirely sure why, but Pria didn’t really like the strange girl too much, and would more often than not hide behind Ace whenever she was nearby. However, at the moment, as she looked around the underground base at all these sci-fi looking apparel with curious eyes and excitement, she couldn’t help but feel impressed.
Her amazement was so great, that even when the girl asked her to lend her hand, she didn’t mind her holding on to it as she put it under a strange machine that she called microscope. Watching in awe as the hero girl became seemingly lost in her task at hand, she turned towards Ace who was standing behind her with a curious look.
The knight just shrugged it off as he also didn’t have much of an idea of what the other was doing.
“Just to be safe, but there isn’t any issues if I were to put a fire near her hand, right?” She asked while lowering her sunglasses once again and turning back to the duo. Ace gave a quick glance towards Pria before nodding. “Okay, then if I take this…” She said while lighting up a generic match and placing it near Pria’s finger, almost to the point the flame could reach her fingertips. “Hmm… This is… Interesting.”
“What happened?” Ace asked curious.
“Just… I’m seeing some reaction from her body while she absorbs energy. Can’t say exactly what is happening, but it does seem to enact a reaction from her body..” Deaddie said before going back to the microscope. “I can’t say for sure at the moment what exactly is happening. I guess I’ll need some more tests to say for sure, but it sure is interesting.” as she said that, she extinguished the flame and instead picked up a small icecube from a nearby freezer. “I wonder if…” She said while slowly approaching the ice-cube to the girl’s hand.
Pria’s face contorted into a look of discomfort as her hand twitched slightly. Surprised by her sudden reaction, Ace quickly glanced towards Deaddie to tell her to stop, but she had already moved the ice away from the blue girl.
“S-Sorry… I didn’t know that it would hurt you.” She said apologetically. “But… It’s quite curious… You said that she feeds on pretty much any kind of energy, which raises a bunch of questions that I’ll look into later, however, it looks like that forcibly taking energy from her incites pain instead.”
“Forcibly removing…?” Ace started asking confused before finally blinking and sighing in self-depreciation. “Oh yeah. Ice actually absorbs heat in normal physics….” He said with an awkward tone. “Guess I’m too used to thinking in magic terms. And here I was starting to think you were pretty much immune to everything.” He said while looking to the girl besides him, who had a teary look to herself. He lost to her eyes
“Well, to be honest, if I had to say something, as long as the magic energy in an ice spell and the energy taken by the ice itself have a negative balance, it could still hurt her.” She explained while throwing the ice away in a bin “…Though I doubt we have either the will or the means to test that at the moment, so it’ll stay as only an hypothesis at the moment.”
“…Part of me is really annoyed for being unable to help despite being the resident magician. The other is glad I don’t have to hurt Pria.” Ace said in an awkward tone.
Pria turned to him with a confused and worried look, upon which he simply rubbed her head after removing his gauntlet. While she was still a bit confused about the meaning behind his actions, Pria simply enjoyed the feeling of heat and the contact with him, quickly cheering back up and forgetting the earlier sting she felt from the ice cube.
From there on, the two heroes proceeded to exchange some way too complicated talk that she didn’t bother thinking too much about while taking her from one machine to another where she had to do various different things, like lay under a cover where a violet light ran through while changing her body or sometimes have a strange machine go inside her body for a reason that escaped her. Something about acidity?
However, as much as the blue girl was easily impressed and curious, there was only so long she could stay in one place following simple orders before she would get bored, and soon after she started losing her body cohesion and had her eyes wander around distracted.
“There’s only a couple of things that I want to check up for now, so it’s almost over.” Deaddie said while putting on an apologetic tone. “I also will have to leave soon anyway.”
“Hmm? Something happened?” Ace asked curious, but she shook her head.
“Just some personal things. Nothing bad.” She explained before looking back to her machines. “Well, to be honest I’m not entirely sure how I can pull off these final tests since I’d have to put you inside a test-tube to run through the machines.” She looked back to Pria and stared at her for some time. “If we follow basic physics law, I don’t think that’s possible volume-wise.”
Pria tilted her head confused for some time. Did that mean that she would have to be smaller than usual to continue? While she wasn’t entirely sure what they had been doing with her, she did understand that it was somehow related to her and that, despite the occasional stings of pain, they were doing it for her.
Having an idea, she approached the super and gently tugged her sleeve. Once Deaddie turned back to her, she extended her hand while focusing for some time as she recalled something.
Then, her hand fell. Severed from her arm.
A good three minutes of freaking out from both Ace and Deaddie for two completely different reasons ensued. Way longer than it took for her to reform her hand harmlessly and become worried about the two others.
“…But we have to take her to the hospital to get checked, but if we think about it, it would attract a lot of attention. But maybe she can regenerate her arm if she absorbs enough energy? That said I don’t think I’ve seen her increase in volume from eating… Would she need to absorb real matter in some manner? maybe…. Did your hand just grow back?”
“Herhandfellherhandfellherhandfellherhandfellher… Wait, what?” Deaddie recovered from her crouched position and looked back to Pria, only for her to pale even more. “herhandgrewbackherhandgrewbackherhandgrewback…”
Pria simply tilted her hand confused, but quickly closed her eyes as a weird uncomfortable feeling ran through her. She quickly leaned towards Ace and supported herself against him.
“H-Hey! Are you alright?” He asked her in worry while holding on to her. She nodded weakly while taking some time to recover. Then she headed towards where she had left her notebook and started writing down.
[Separating makes me dizzy.] She wrote while turning back to the blue blob that was once her hand. It twitched slightly as if reacting to her, and she had another dizzy spell. [Moving too much is difficult.]
“…I didn’t know you could do that.” Ace said surprised.
[Never tried. Don’t want to again.] Pria added with an annoyed expression before turning towards Dead-shot. [She okay?] She asked a bit worried.
“Well… I think your sudden attempt at help gave her a bit of a nightmare fuel.” Ace explained while looking at his friend. “Dead. You alright?” he called her while gently tapping her shoulder. “Aren’t you overreacting a bit to this? I mean, if you’d freak out for a hand falling you wouldn’t last very long here, you know?”
She blinked out of her shocked state and looked around in confusion and worry for a moment. She finally focused back on Ace and quickly stood up while holding him by the collar of his jacket with a very, VERY furious look to herself.
“You. Owe. Me.” She said in a very cold and furious voice before finally taking a deep calming breath before letting go of the now terrified Ace. “And it’s more a matter of how than what.” She said with a shiver. “Her hand just fell off you know! Plop! and it was severed! That’s creepy! Really creepy!”
“W-Well, now you get to do the tests you wanted, right?” Ace asked, and she very hesitatingly nodded. “And I’ll repay you… Somehow.”
“…I want your Branch of the Grave-marker.” She said suddenly.
It took Ace a good five seconds to understand the meaning behind her words, and by the time he understood he made a confused expression.
“I thought you were playing an archer?” He said confused.
“I have a mage alt.” She explained briefly.
“Good.” She finally let go of him and turned towards the blue jelly on her table. “Will she need that back?”
“Okay… I’ll try to finish this quickly. Feel free to hang around.” She said while putting on a grimace. “I’ll try not to think that I’m analysing the deathly remains of a severed…”
A groan of sickness escaped the hero as she slowly put the blue blob within a flask and moved towards another machine, leaving Ace and Pria behind.
Seeing that it would still take at least some minutes, Ace pulled out a couple of chairs and pulled them so that they could sit down and wait. However, in an unexpected, but not exactly surprising turn, Pria tried to sit down with him in the same chair.
They consented on Ace pulling the second chair closer so that she could lean against him. Her slightly sick expression not really letting him raise any more complaint.
“You alright?” He asked her in worry.
[Not used to this. Tiring. But fine.] The slime wrote down in her notebook.
“I see…” Ace replied while gently stroking her ‘hair’ in worry. She made a small smile in response. “Hey, Pria… By any chance…” He started asking with a worried tone, upon which she looked back at him in worry. “Did you come from the big tower when it exploded some days ago?”
The answer came in a surprisingly quick and innocent nod. Not exactly expecting the quick and honest answer caught Ace a bit by surprise, so he just stood silent for some time. However, it also served to leave him sure that the info that Deaddie had was real, which made things pretty complicated.
“…Say Pria… By any chance, were you never a human previously?” He asked her worried.
She turned towards him a with a confused look for some time, as if not quite understanding his question. But after half a second or something she finally shook her head.
That answer was unexpected, and left Ace in deep thought for a long time. He had all this time just considered her a human stuck as an aberrant and needing help. Never once had he expected that this was how she originally was. However, this also posed the question of whether or not Pria was actually dangerous or not.
The question quickly left his mind after a brief moment. Human or not, he still doubted that Pria would be willingly the one to hurt someone else first for no good reason. That much he could attest to without doubt. But that still left him confused as to why she had ran away from Grandia’s building. Or rather, what she had been doing in there in the first place? So many questions started to come and go around his head at the same time that he had to take some time to regain his focus.
Well, she might not be as human as he thought, but the fact that she needed help and was a mystery still remained. But that still hadn’t explained to him why she had never told him she wasn’t human. It just made no sense for her to stay quiet for so long if she were to reveal it so easily like that.
On the other hand… It’s not like she had any reason to tell him. If he thought about it from her point of view, it made no difference if she were to tell him or not. And since he had never asked, she never felt the need to.
Somehow that felt like a very Pria-ish thing for her to do.
“…Wait a second.” He suddenly said confused while turning towards her. “If you weren’t human to begin with, wouldn’t that mean that you aren’t amnesiac?” He asked confused.
Once again she looked at him confused, however this time it was slightly different as she went into deep thought and tried to think over his words. After a long time she finally took on the notebook and wrote down some words.
[Amnesia is not remembering, right?] She looked at him confused and upon his nod, she added in another line. [Then I have it.]
“Really?” Ace asked surprised. “What exactly don’t you remember?” He asked worried.
[Speak.] Pria wrote down with an annoyed expression. [And what happened after and before and after explosion.]
“Wait… You can speak?” Ace asked in shock, but she quickly shook her head.
[Could. Trying to learn again. Speaking is hard.] She pouted cutely before discreetly squirming herself a bit closer to Ace. [Friend was teaching me about speak. Something about shaking in the right way. It’s tiring.]
“I see…” Ace nodded slowly while staring at her in surprise. “So, you don’t remember how to speak at all?” She shook her head.
[Trying to learn again. But shaking fast without melting is difficult. Very very tiring.] She complained.
“Then, why didn’t you ask me for help? I just thought you couldn’t speak all this time.” Ace replied worried.
Strangely enough, Pria suddenly froze and seemed to think about something. Finally, her cheek’s coloration deepened as she shrunk herself a bit, looking a bit embarrassed.
[I wanted it to be a surprise…] She wrote down while looking away from him slightly embarrassed.
Ace completely lost to her and simply sighed in defeat while shaking his head. He couldn’t really bring himself to complain when she was being that adorable, could he?
However, once he stopped to think about it, he couldn’t help but recall the exploded side of the building and wonder if Pria had been caught right in its middle. If that was the case, he could only wonder how much damage she had suffered, and just seeing the way she was at the moment, with only one part of her severed, made him think that such a big explosion must have left her completely devastated. Just the fact that she survived and still recalled how to read and write was incredible.
However, it was still a fact that many things were now unknown, and seeing how she hadn’t lost all her memories, he should probably take some time to ask her about it.
As he was thinking about what he should do in the future, he suddenly felt as Pria tugged his arm.
[What’s that?] She showed him her notebook while pointing out towards something on a table. Ace looked over and saw an object that had a familiar, yet rather unique look.
“Hmm… I’m not entirely sure, but I’d guess it’s something like a pistol?” He said at the slightly odd looking weapon.
“It’s a prototype energy blaster, to be precise.” Deaddie said suddenly, approaching the duo. “It’s something I made before I decided to settle on this as my hero theme.” She said while tugging at her cowboy hat. “Though I never managed to get them working.”
“Oh? Did something happen?” Ace asked curious.
“Basic issues of any energy weapon. Energy.” She waved away. “Managed to make a big enough battery to hold many shots, but capacitors would take too long to charge.” She said with an annoyed shrug. “On the other hand…” Her tone dropped a couple of degrees in temperature. “Aren’t the two of you a bit too close?”
“S-She was feeling a bit bad after separating like that.” Ace defended himself.
“…I’ll buy that one. For now.” She said coldly. “But sometimes you guys make me wonder what’s your actual relationship.” She said with a sigh while holding onto her forehead.
The two of them froze completely at the voice that echoed in that room. A young and female voice that sounded strangely, like it was coming from more than one place at once. It was entirely different from anything they had ever heard, so they took a long time to understand that it had come from the blue girl who was cheerfully writing on her notebook.
[See! I’ve been training again!] She wrote down while the sound of a revolver’s hammer being pulled back echoed from nearby and a certain hero swallowed his saliva nervously.