Episode 3: Traces of the Alchemists
The scene begins in the London underground. An announcement for the Victoria subway line echoes through the corridors. A mysterious man in a black robe stands in the shadows. Maria is nearby purveying the area. She feels uncomfortable in “The Tube,” London’s subway. She feels as if Jack the Ripper might appear at any moment, but she continues to tail the man in robes. He seems on edge and Maria wonders just how long she’s been following him. She checks the time and realizes she won’t be able to meet Tsubasa at their prearranged time.
A flashback occurs. Maria is talking with Genjuro. He notifies her that their investigation division came across new information related to her special assignment to uncover the truth behind the Magical Girl Incident. He tells her that they’ve run across the name of an ancient anarchist organization that has reappeared throughout history: the Bavarian Illuminati. Maria of course recognizes the name from their dealings with FIS during the moon disaster in season 2. She realizes that they were the financial backers behind the construction of Château de Tiffauges. Gen asks her to proceed with her investigation after she meets up with Ogawa and Tsubasa.
Back in the present, the man in robes has vanished. Despite her efforts to find him, Maria realizes she has been given the slip and gives up on her chase. However she senses something unpleasant, and realizes there are Alca-NOISE lurking in the darkness. She has been lured into a trap, but she quickly dons her gear and fights them off. During her fight she struggles to keep the Alca-NOISE at bay while preventing them from harming the surrounding area - if they dissolve the subway rails or walls it could cost lives. She succeeds in keeping the situation under control but laments that she failed in her mission to follow the man. She realizes she’s late for her meet up with Tsubasa and calls her.
Tsubasa: It’s me. Did something happen, Maria?
Maria: About dinner, I’ll be a little late.
Tsubasa: What’s the problem?
Maria: Nothing. I was following a potential target.
Tsubasa: Target? What are you talking about? Did you think we’re hunting for our dinner tonight?
Maria: Why would I ever think that?! I’m on a special mission - wait, are you saying he didn’t tell you?
Tsubasa: I haven’t been told anything…
Tsubasa: Wait, actually, Mr. Ogawa said a group of SONG agents were brought along for an investigation. Did he mean-?
Maria: Yes, exactly. More to the point, what did you think I came all the way to London for?
Tsubasa: I figured with Tsukuyomi and Akatsuki busy in school, you were simply lonely being all by yourself.
Maria: Sigh. I’m too tired to deal with this…
Tsubasa: Maria, if you’re tired you should know better than to be running out there into danger all by yourself.
Maria: That’s not what’s tiring me out…but anyway, I’m fine. I’m finally on the verge of uncovering how alchemists fit into the bigger picture.
Tsubasa: Alchemists…I see. That’s who you’ve been after. What did you find out?
Maria: Well, as was suspected, it seems one of their hideouts is located deep underground connected to The Tube.
Tsubasa: In the subway? Where exactly is it?
Maria: Well, I tailed one to the tunnels in the subway but then they vanished into the darkness.
Tsubasa: I see. Perhaps the work of a sacrist or philosophical armament?
Maria: I’m not sure yet.
Tsubasa: Where exactly did you lose them? Did you search out the surroundings?
Maria: Let’s save the details for over dinner. I haven’t finished my investigation. I didn’t have a chance because soon after the Alca-NOISE appeared and I had to fight them off. I just got out of the subway now.
Tsubasa: Are you alright?
Maria: If I wasn’t, would I really be talking to you so nonchalantly right now?
Tsubasa: Point taken. Well, I’m glad you’re okay.
Maria: You worry too much, I’m not going to get taken down by the likes of Alca-NOISE.
Tsubasa: As expected, you’re certainly reliable Maria.
Maria: Heh, alright then I’ll see you a bit later.
Maria ends her call and feels bad about worrying Tsubasa, but resolves she will do whatever it takes to stop the people behind the scenes. She remembers how Nastassja worked to change the world for the better, and refuses to let her sacrifice be in vain. She returns to the subway to continue her search, however it’s too dark for her to see very well and using a light would give away her presence. She feels around for damage caused by the Alca-NOISE to confirm her position. She discovers a hidden door that explains the robed man’s disappearance. She proceeds and discovers a lighted area, despite her caution she runs into Alca-NOISE again and this time they attack before she can sing her activation chant. She makes a hasty retreat. Suddenly Tsubasa hails her on the radio, they have her location and are coming in for backup. The robed man appears, he recognizes her as the pop artist Maria and laughs at the fact she has become the dog of SONG.
He asks why she has been investigating them and promises to release her if she spills all the info. However, Maria doesn’t agree to the deal - she has a lot of fans waiting for her. As the man prepares to order the Alca-NOISE to attack a defenseless Maria, suddenly he hears a train running through the subway. However, he realizes the trains shouldn’t be running at this hour and he and Maria both realize it’s not a train but a motorbike - carrying a fully armed Tsubasa. She takes out the Alca-NOISE in an instant. Maria uses this opportunity to don her own gear and also takes out the 2nd wave of noise summoned by the robed alchemist.
As they fight the alchemist retreats. Maria wants to give chase but Tsubasa scolds her for running into danger despite being warned not to. Maria apologizes, acknowledging that she put herself into a tight spot. They discuss the next step - they realize they are closing in on the alchemists hideout but the London unground is still very vast. They might be able to discover it if they come back later, but Maria says they should proceed ahead now while the enemy is off guard. Faced with the decision Tsubasa recommends caution - the alchemists may have sacrists at their disposal that would complicate the situation. Despite this the two decide to press on, determined to catch the alchemist’s tail.
Episode 4: A curse engraved in gold
Hibiki wakes up in the SONG medical room with Miku by her side. Miku has been worried, Hibiki apologizes. She doesn’t remember how she ended up here. Genjuro arrives, explaining that all they know is that the girls engaged a Sphinx-like enemy and then fell unconscious. Hibiki explains they chased after a light and arrived at the golden mask before collapsing. Genjuro explains that the other SONG staff on scene are the ones who rescued the Adaptors. Hibiki expresses concern that regular people risked their lives over their failure. Genjuro explains that he left the decision in their hands - that even if he told them not to, they would have gone to save the girls anyway. Miku comments that everyone at SONG must be a person like Genjuro, because he was the one who wanted to go in first but was stopped by Aoi and Fujitaka.
With no ill effects observed in the girls, they were released to do more training. Genjuro tells Hibiki to rest and report to HQ later. As Gen leaves, Hibiki talks to Miku about all the support they receive from the people around them. It’s not just the Adaptors who are fighting - but everyone at SONG as a whole. Hibiki leaves to join the others in the training room. They’ve checked their condition and their gears - nothing out of the ordinary, so they wonder what exactly caused them to lose consciousness on the ship. They hurry to the bridge for a meeting. Elfnein explains the cause of their sudden weakness was due to a “curse” of sorts.
Chris: Wait, are you saying we seriously got cursed by a ghost??
Kirika: Eek! I’ve had enough of ghost stories for today!
Shirabe: What exactly do you mean by curse?
Elfnein: It may seem unscientific to use a term like curse, but this is comparable to a type of energy.
Elfnein: Similar to Phonic Gain, a curse can be detected and emitted in an energy wave pattern.
Elfnein: Just like songs bring forth the power of miracles, curses use words, chants or emotions to bring about injury to a target.
Hibiki: So you’re saying we fainted because of the power of a curse like that?
Elfnein: Yes. I believe your bodies were affected by a cursed energy wave.
Elfnein: The Sphinx-like enemy you fought, I’ve dubbed it the “Cursed Pharaoh,” was at the source.
Elfnein: Once you defeated it, the light form it released was a physical manifestation of high level curse energy.
Elfnein: That energy reacted to Tutankhamun’s death mask and evolved, developing into a type of Philosophical Armament.
Chris: Philosophical Armament…didn’t one of the dolls we fought before have one of those things?
Elfnein: Yes, the Auto-Scorer Phara had one called the Sword Breaker.
Chris: So how exactly are you saying this caused us to get knocked out?
HibikI: And is there a way we can prevent it from happening again?
Elfnein: Unfortunately I haven’t figured that much out yet…
Elfnein: I need more time to analyze the information we have to determine what type of Armament it is.
Hibiki: Okay, do your best!
As the meeting continues Kirika asks what happened to the ship they were on. It’s explained that the black ghost forms, which they’ve named “balloons,” are still prowling around the storage hold. They’ve kept the ship evacuated and have SONG staff on 24 hour surveillance. Genjuro explains the balloons have made no move to leave the ship and as long as the situation holds out they won’t make a move until they’ve prepared counter-measures. Shirabe asks why their communicators stopped working and Elfnein explains it was another affect of the energy put out by the curse.
Elfnein: Once I finish analyzing the energy wave of the curse, I should be able to come up with a way to prevent it from interfering.
Kirika: Thank heavens for that!
Aoi: Indeed. If we can monitor the situation maybe the Commander won’t keep trying to fly out of here at the slightest sign of trouble.
Fujitaka: Yeah, somehow we convinced him to leave it to those already on scene but we’re left doubled over in sweat afterwards!
Genjuro: Hey, hey cut me a break. It’s not as if I’m trying to go out there because I like it.
Aoi: I wonder about that.
Fujitaka: Commander, we all see the excitement on your face whenever you get the chance to leave the bridge.
Genjuro: You guys are something else.
Genjuro: Well, jokes aside nobody is going anywhere for now until we’re prepared.
Back in the simulator…
Chris: What the hell could that golden mask armament be?
Shirabe: Sword Breaker was one that broke swords…so Tutankhamun’s death mask must mean?
Kirika: Who is this Tutankhamun guy anyway? All I know is he was once the King of Egypt.
Miku: I know just about as much as you Kirika.
Chris: Guess we ain’t getting anywhere thinking about it. Time to train.
After training Miku brings the group some drinks. She asks how Hibiki is doing to which Hibiki replies there’s no need to worry, but Miku says she can see worry on her face. Hibiki confesses she’s been doing some thinking about Tutankhamun and what kind of person he was. She says that if curses are like songs, then they must reveal the voice of the person’s heart. Hibiki wonders if the curse is indicative that he is suffering or angry in someway. She wonders if the curse relates to some strong feeling or goal he wants to achieve, even to the point of being willing to hurt others. Of course in the end, Hibiki realizes no matter how much she thinks about it she won’t get any answers. Miku suggests she does research on him to find out more. The two go off to the library the next morning and spend awhile there, but unfortunately don’t manage to learn very much. Miku says they might have been able to learn more if they didn’t get kicked out for Hibiki’s loud snoring. Hibiki says she was up late doing more thinking the night before. They decide to go to Lydian’s library instead despite its smaller amount of books. On the way they run into Itaba, Ando and Terashima again.
Ando: Isn’t that Hina and Bikki?
Itaba: Ah, yeah it is. Randomly meeting up in the middle of town like this, it’s just like an anime!
Terashima: I think you’re exaggerating a bit there…
Itaba: So- what’s up? You look a bit worried.
Terashima: Miss Kohinata looks quite stressed out.
Ando: Did Bikki do something to make Hina mad again?
Hibiki: Ahaha…We were doing some research in the library but we got kicked out cuz I feel asleep…
Ando: Yep, that’s all on you Bikki.
Terashima: So what were you researching?
Hibiki: Ah, um…er….Tuta…what was it again?
Miku: Tutankhamun, you should have it memorized by now.
Hibiki: Yeah, yeah we were looking up that Ramun guy.
Itaba: What’s up with that? You failing World History tests now?
Miku: No, that’s not it…
Terashima: Speaking of Tutankhamun, his death mask is going to be on display at that exhibit we saw a flyer for the other day.
Hibiki: Eh? O-oh really, you don’t say…I had no idea…
Itaba: What’cha hiding?
Hibiki: I’m not hiding anything….
Terashima: So this must be related to work then?
Hibiki: Well, yeah a little I guess.
Ando: It’s almost like we’re not friends or something. If you’re in trouble, let us help you out.
Hibiki: Ah, but, I’d feel bad…I don’t want to drag you into it…
Terashima: It’s talk like that that makes us not feel like friends.
Itaba: How many times do you think you’ve saved our butts?
Ando: So let us be your savior for once.
Hibiki: Is that really okay?
Itaba: Of course it is!
Terashima: So what are we doing?
Ando: Well it’s already this late, so for today let’s all head home and hit up our books and check the net.
Itaba: Got it, so we’ll all report in with what we’ve found at school tomorrow.
Terashima: Very well then.
Miku: Aren’t you glad, Hibiki?
HibikI: Y-yeah, thanks a lot everyone.
The next day
Chris: So, why exactly did you drag us into this?
Hibiki: Everybody worked hard to research it, so I thought it would be nice to hear the results together.
Hibiki: It’s better you hear it straight from the source than having me screw it all up trying to relay it later!
Chris: You’re right about that…
Shirabe: That’s all it took to convince you?
Miku: Alright everyone, let’s hear what you’ve found.
They explain that Tutankhamun, originally Tutankhaten, was the Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Egypt. They explain that both his names referenced gods, Aten and Amun respectively. He ascended the throne at age 10, and his reign only lasted 9 years before he died supposedly of disease. He was mummified as was tradition and adorned with the aforementioned golden death mask. The reason that he and the mask are so well known is because of a curse associated with them. The mysterious death of Lord Carnarvon, one sponsor of the excavation of Tutankhamun tomb, along with numerous other deaths of related individuals gave rise to the rumor of the “pharaoh’s curse.”
Later, they gather on the bridge after reports that the mist from the ship has spread to the surrounding area and Balloons have been sighted inside the nearby town. Elfnein gives them new communicators that should prevent interference from the curse, but she has yet to determine the nature of the mask as an armament. They rush to the scene and defeat the Balloons.
Hibiki: There sure are a lot of them…
Chris: More fish for the fry! This is too easy!
Kirika: I’m not even breaking a sweat!
Shirabe: You two were all scared and ran off when you thought they were ghosts though…
Chris: W-what are you talking about?! I was off doing an investigation on a different route is all…
Kirika: Yes yes! We were thinking strategically!
Elfnein warns them over the radio that the curse energy is converging on their location. Once again, the Balloons merge together but this time into one giant Balloon that looms over them. Despite this, their attacks are just as effective so they make quick work of it. However despite defeating it, Genjuro informs them that a dark mist has begun to pour out of the ship across the harbor enveloping other ships. Elfnein says it is emitting a signal similar to that of the Balloons but the source is different. They hurry to the scene….
TO BE CONTINUED