I climb into the black cab and it begins the journey back to the hideout. I rub my temples in a vain attempt at dispelling my frustration and ask The Voice, "Hernandez's plan is clearly nuts. And you're down with it?"
The Voice concedes, "The plan certainly could be better, but we do not have much in the way of options presently. Based on what I have learnt from the conversation between the three of you, it is imperative that we disrupt the URI."
I idly look out of the cab's window as it passes through the night streets of Six Trees, "Because of instability it will cause. Still, I think there are better ways to go about this. I'm got a very bad vibe from Hernandez and Matsui at the meeting just now. As if both of them were at the end of their rope."
"The scent of desperation." The Voice confirms, "Both Hernandez and Matsui fight against the current unleashed by Fate. Neither of them were ever meant to get so far in their scheme and soon, the tidal wave of destiny will sweep both of them aside."
I frown, "And knowing this, you want us to tie our fortunes to a sinking ship?"
"The ship was floated by you in the first place, Transmigrator." The Voice rasps, "Your interference at the Squat was the trigger for all of this. Ensuring that Hernandez and Matsui succeed in their plot is in our best interest."
I tut to myself as I watch a group of flashily dressed young men and women head into a nightclub. Looks like a popular joint too. Most of the women queuing at the entrance could pass as supermodels or wealthy heiresses. A beefy looking bouncer doing face control selects only the hottest or wealthiest looking club kids to enter. I had already gotten over my hangups over not getting the 'proper' transmigration experience, but the stress from the constant danger as well as the ever present evidence of the luxury this world could provide was slowly but surely getting to me.
"You've became oddly interested in the URI though." I comment as I turn my attention back to the matter at hand. Being resentful was no use. I had to deal with the problem in front of me no matter how upset I was feeling.
"That is because I have a suspicion as to how Fate intends to use the codex against us." The Voice rasps, "The key was in the URI's advertising. Unity. Breaking down the barriers between worlds."
"The codex can do that?" I quiz, "Drop the barriers between earth and the other two worlds?"
The Voice rumbles as it overtakes a sports car driven by some young bugger, "Not directly. Though it certainly can provide the means to do so. Allowing the three worlds to merge into a singular one would immediately turn the P5 into a geopolitical minnow as both the Host and the Legion bring their full strength to bear. Even if the Host only allowed heaven and earth to perform the merge, leaving hell trapped behind the dimensional barrier, the truce would be immediately be torn up, as the Host would have no reason to honor it."
"Meaning nuclear war. Again." I say.
"Yes." The Voice confirms, "Both the Host and the Legion underestimate the lethality of the P5's nuclear arsenal and next generation missiles. The P5 has worked out a way to send their nukes through unstable spatial rifts opened at the missile launch sites, allowing a near instantaneous nuclear strike against any target, regardless of any dimensional barrier. Of course, humanity would not survive the subsequent retribution."
"Then why bother with the Hero?" I ask, "If the codex can accomplish Armageddon, shouldn't Fate be concentrating on that avenue of attack?"
The Voice rumbles, "Out of self-interest. The codex is the equivalent of a sledgehammer, not a scalpel. Unleashing it in this way would drop all dimensional barriers that are being maintained in this world, including the barriers that both of us have erected around ourselves."
"Yeah. I have never actually met you. Not in person." I remark as the sports car The Voice overtook begins tailgating us, "So both of you have been hiding in some kind of divine realm then?" The annoyance begins building up in me again as I realize that The Voice has been giving orders from its cushy pad while I have been out here risking my life.
"In simple terms, yes." The Voice admits, "Fate and I transmit our orders and influence from our respective realms. That is the reason why you could not beat back Fate at the Crossroads. Fate's actual body was simply not there. Using the codex to lift the barriers would render both of us vulnerable. Even if Fate succeeded in causing Armageddon, there is no guarantee that it could survive a direct attack from me before I lost my power."
"So much safer to keep the actual fighting between pawns huh?" I mutter angrily. This talk is really driving home my actual place in this world. Not just my place, but the Hero's, the Heroines' and Fate's Incarnates. We are all just here so The Voice and Fate don't get too badly hurt in a scrap. Both of them wanted power, but neither wanted to die over it.
And that's what really annoys me about my situation. I could deal with being disposable. After all, The Voice is not my lover, wife, mother or father. Any employee is ultimately disposable to their boss. So yes, I was fine with being disposable. The annoying part is that everyone in this world, and by extension myself, could not escape the influence of either of these gods. You could leave a job you were unhappy with. You could even leave society if you felt so inclined. Go live in the wilderness like a survivalist or if that's not your thing, become a NEET jacking it to galge everyday. There is always an option to bow out.
Not with The Voice and Fate though. Fate pulled at your soul 24/7. The Voice addled your mind whenever you ate anything and manipulated the entire environment. There was no escape from either of them. Not happy? Good luck getting either of them to take you seriously. Not with the strength they possess. You just had to grin and bear it.
The Voice, unaware of my inner turmoil, continues talking, "I had tracked the infrastructure laid as part of the URI while you were having your discussion with Hernandez and Matsui. The Host has created a series of artificial ley lines throughout the URI, with the focal point being Ascension Tower. The ley lines serve as a conduit for spiritual energy once they are activated. There is no other reason for Ascension Tower to need so much spiritual energy unless it is meant to serve as the activation point for the codex."
As I try to focus on what The Voice is saying, a luxury sedan overtakes the cab and slows, deliberately blocking my path. Hooting noise comes from the sedan. More young men and women, probably friends of the sports car's driver. One of the girls, most likely drunk, leans out from an open window and gives me the finger. Thanks to these assholes, the black cab is forced to slow to a crawl. Thoroughly irritated by just about everything, I wind down the cab's window and give her the finger right back.
"Transmigrator, control yourself." The Voice says, but that reminder just gets me even more heated. Yes, tell me to control myself. Just like you tell me to do anything you want me to do.
The car in front abruptly brakes and The Voice stops the cab. The gaggle of guys and girls disembark from the car, jeering at me. Rich kids, the lot of them. The sports car behind the cab stops as well, and the driver swaggers out in his ostentatious getup. He walks up to the cab's passenger door and begins banging on the window, sneering at me all the while.
"Time to teach you a lesson." The driver says, "You think is ok to be rude to a lady?"
Enough. Enough. I get shit from The Voice everyday. I almost get killed on a regular basis. I get roped into a stupid plan fueled by desperation. Now rich kids want to piss on me. Enough!
I disembark and the crowd goes quiet as they spazz out. I draw the revolver and activate the core. I know my place in this world. Its time to teach the locals their place in the food chain.
The driver comes to and blanches when he sees the revolver pointing straight at him. I press the gun against the man and force him backwards.
"Hey, what do you think you're doing?" one of the other guys shouts as the group from the other car begins to advance on me.
Idiots. You lot must be tired of living. I casually turn and fire the revolver straight into the gut of one of the punks. The impact sends him flying backwards like a rag doll. People scream.
"Shut up!" I roar, "Nobody moves!" That's right, nobody moves, just like Gallant's asshole sister tried to stop me from moving the other night. I've had it! I've had it with everything!
The driver says, "You're dead. You know who I am? You know who we-"
Before the driver can complete the sentence, I backhand him hard, breaking his jaw. "I said shut up!" I shout.
The girl who gave me the finger pleads, "Just let us go. We're sorry. You won't see us again. Our friends, we need to bring them to a hospital. Just let us go."
I nod and throw the driver to the ground. "Ten seconds. You have ten seconds." I tell him.
The driver quickly gets to his feet to escape but I lash out with a kick, breaking his right leg. Finger girl cries in horror. "Eight seconds." I say.
"Six seconds." I continue as a stomp from me shatters the driver's arm. Everyone else is silent.
"Four." I say as I level the revolver at the driver's head. Just as I am preparing to pull the trigger, I feel someone squeezing my shoulder hard. I turn around and see Matsui, his eyes blazing with fury. Did the cab overtake his limo sometime back?
"Stop this." Matsui says. Another instruction. Another order. Go to hell. I stomp on the driver again breaking his other leg and press the revolver against Matsui's throat.
"Make me." I whisper.
"My son was right about you." Matsui says without fear, "You're a small man hiding behind your magic."
"Say that again." I threaten, "You have a death wish old man?"
"You attacked my family at the Academy when you knew they couldn't beat you." Matsui says, "Just like what you are doing now. Is that anything to be proud of?"
"I like winning. I'm tired of being the one at the bottom." I snap, "I'm just putting someone in his proper place."
"And that's why you will always be at the bottom, doing dirty work for others." Matsui says calmly, "A real man rises above provocations. A real man bears his struggles with pride. He does not lash out just to feel good about himself."
I push Matsui away and he does not resist. "Get off my back." I say and holster the revolver. Matsui looks at me impassively without saying anything further. I climb back into the cab and The Voice drives off without further comment.
Face slapping was never meant to leave such a bad taste in the mouth.