Arrow Runner

By couplinganon

>WIZARDS are virgin human men who have reached the age of 30 years without laying with a woman, and have gained control of their body's magic. Their abilities and strong mana makes them prized husbands, yet incredibly dangerous prey.

>After a series of dangerous incidents involving reckless use of magic powers, their production and training became a matter of national security.

>A special government agency was established for wizards to be properly trained in their powers and become sanctioned magic-users, softened by immediate pairing with a wife after their powers awaken.

>Single men who strive towards wizardry on their own terms, rogues, are hunted down and exposed to the power of love.

>Those that hunt them go by the name...

>ARROW RUNNER

----------

>You got a call about this case two days ago, didn't take too long to track them down

>And so you stood outside this average-looking suburban house, in the rain

>A momentary glance towards the roof, and a flash of shadow atop it gave you assurance

>You knocked on the door to greeted by a rather befuddled man, looked to be in his late 20s or early 30s

>"Hello there sir, how can I help you?'

"Mr. Norton lete, Right? I'm Detective Ymous, MCPD. I just wanted to ask you a few questions about a case we're working on. Mind if I come inside?"

>"Uh, sure. Yeah, come on in. Sorry if it's a bit messy, I haven't cleaned yet"

>To his credit, the house wasn't that dirty, at least no more so than your average bachelor pad

>The large piles of food-in-bulk didn't help your suspicions, though

"Oh this isn't too shabby, you don't give yourself enough credit. A place like this must cost a pretty penny."

>"Oh, uh, yeah! I work a pretty nice job from home, so money's not a problem"

>Right

>You weren't exactly lying, but every bit of info helps

>You sat down as Iete started something in the microwave oven

>He shouted to you from the kitchen as he got out a plate

>"So can I ask what kinda case you're investigating?"

"Oh, it's nothing much, just some minor burglary in the area, thought you might know some of the people involved"

>"O-Okay, sure. I'm not sure I can answer much on that, but we can try"

>Norton sat down on the chair opposite you in his living room

"So first I'd like to ask about your Ms. Leanne. She was one of the first victims of this burglar. The thief seemed to target objects of sentimental value to her. Would you happen to know anything about Ms. Leanne, anyone who'd have motive to steal from her?"

>"Well, uh, no. I can't say I do. I haven't exactly talked to her in some time. Haven't seen her too often, stuck in my work and all haha"

>"N-not that I'd expect to see her too often anyways, isn't she one of those werewolves? I thought they only did stuff at night."

>Strike One

>You shrug off his somewhat embarrassed laughter and continue

"Oh that's fine, I understand. We can just move on to the next hit. So from what we can tell, the thief's next target was some memorabilia belonging to the owner of a cafe you might know, The Smiling Cheshire?"

>"Yeah, I've heard of that place. Don't really go in too often, though."

"Really? Damn. From what we'd been told, nearly all the men in your neighborhood go there. Thought we'd check who was a patron and ask who can tell us anything about the owner, Ms. Jeanine Larpshire."

>"Nah, sorry, I haven't talked to Jeanine in a while either"

"I understand you two went to the same high school?"

>"I mean, yeah, but I don't see how that was relevant."

"Oh its quite pertinent, we need every detail we can get"

>"Well, okay. She was a sort of friend I guess, but I think she was actually shit-talking me behind my back, so we just kinda stopped talking after I went to college."

>Strike two

"Alright Mr. Iete, just one more question and I should be out of your hair"

>"Alight, shoot"

"When was the last time you called your parents?"

>"What?"

"We have cause to think the burglar might target you next. We don't think they have violent intentions, but all the sane, I want to make sure you have connections that know where you are regularly."

>"W-well, I haven't really touched base with my folks since I moved out"

"Anybody else you could check in with? I presume you don't have coworkers in your job, but any associates? Acquaintances?"

>"Well, I, uh"

"Maybe tell a friend where you're going? You do have friends, right?"

>He's sweating and his face is tuning red

>The microwave loudly, snapping you both out of the tense atmosphere

>"I-I think you should leave, sir"

>Strike 3

>You throw up your hands in mock surrender

"Alright, alright. Didn't mean to dig too deep. I have what I need. We'll send somebody from the PD to keep an eye on you, I'll just have to notify them of your 'lack of attachments'"

>He looks deep in contemplation as you stand up to leave the house

>"I know what this is."

>You suddenly find yourself unable to move your feet

>"There wasn't any burglary at all, was there? This was to flush me out, wasn't it?"

>The air around Norton starts to glow blue

>"Well you're never leaving this place alive to tell them! YOU'LL NEVER FORCE A WHORE ONTO ME"

>Fuck, he's a wizard

>Looks like we're doing this the hard way

------------

>Norton gestures with his hands, and you go flying into the door on one side of the living room

>After you regain your bearings, you look around what appears to be his bedroom

>Holy shit, this guy's a real special case

>Anime posters all along the walls, three gigantic monitors for the beast of a computer tower under his desk, and a gigantic of lotion next to one of the monitors

>No man has hands that need to be that soft

>The sound of footsteps approaching snaps you out of your review of his lair

>Sounds like Norton's closing in for the kill

>Welp, time to go loud

>You clutch at your forehead in (mostly) mock pain to keep him distracted, while your other hand reaches for your holster slowly

>Norton decides to start gloating

>"HA, YOU FUCKIN MORON, YOU'RE ABOUT TWO AND A HALF YEARS TOO LATE TO STOP ME!"

>"I have fuckin magic now, I'm Invincible!"

>You've had enough of listening to this, it's getting tiresome

>He's definitely not the least troublesome case you've had to deal with, but he's no Merlin

>Bullet to the leg ought to shut him up

>And you just happened to zero in as he began his next boast of his magical prowess

>*BANG*

>"AH FUC-wait, that didn't hurt like it should've"

>Norton looks down at his leg to see red energy flowing from some invisible wound

>He looked at you somewhat incredulously

>"Demon Silver? You seriously brought non-lethal weapons?"

>You shrug from your position on the ground

"I didn't come here to kill anyone"

>"W-well you should've, because the only way you're getting some catgirl SLUT into my bed is if your shove her onto my COLD, DEAD DICK!"

"Or I could just keep shooting"

>You started firing shots off at a measured pace, making sure to keep landing hits where they'll do the most work

>You gradually pull yourself from the into first a kneel, then onto your feet, as you do so

>each shot makes him stagger back a couple feet, but he wont go down

>Figures, demon silver primarily does damage to the body's spirit energy to fatigue a target into unconsciousness

>But for a wizard this far gone, he's got the mana reserves to tank quite a large amount of damage

>Most of the time you'd subdue the target with your revolver, but this is looking dicey, so plan B it is

>By the time your cylinder is empty, you've knocked him all the way to the wall of the living room, right up against the window

>Norton looks exhausted, but he's still standing

>"You...think I'm done? I still have enough magic...to blow you to... smithereens."

>You don't doubt that

>You might take him down with a half-dozen more rounds, but that you to reload, and he could probably waste you before you could do so

>Fortunately you have him right where you want him

"Sure, you could take care of me, but what about her?"

>"Her? W-"

>The sound of glass breaking interrupts whatever he was going to say, followed by a muffled gurgling on account of the arrow now sticking out of neck

>Norton falls over, curling up into the fetal position as he does so

>You look back up to see your white-winged savior, a somewhat annoyed-looking cupid

>Your partner for the past couple of years, Lucelia

<"For Eros' sake, Anon, did you have to cut it that close?"

--------------

"Oh c'mon Lucy, dont be like that. The plan worked like a charm"

<Funny, last I checked, the phrase 'like a charm' doesn't usually involve somebody almost getting a concussion from a magical shut-in."

"ALMOST getting a concussion. But I didn't, now did l? Got a bit of a crick in my back now, but it's nothing a good chiropractor cant fix"

>Lucy was about to protest again when a sort of half groan, half whimper drew both of your attentions downward

>Norton was curled up in a ball, clutching at his chest rather than the arrow still embedded within him

>He was actually starting to tear up

>"So... heavy...alone...noooo"

>from here he started to sob to himself, and you got a look at the arrow in his neck

>your eyebrows raised in surprise when you saw that the tip, rather than golden, was a dark, metallic color

"Damn, you went for lead this time? That was a bit harsh"

<"He was about to kill you, dumbass" Lucy said as she walked over to Norton and, as gently as she could, pulled it out of his neck so that she could place it back in her quiver

<"Lead incapacitates quicker, somebody lovestruck with a golden arrow can usually usually stand a bit longer to do something stupid"

>fair enough

>Once she has the arrow in her quiver, Lucy changes the subject somewhat

<"On that note, did you catch wind of who might be interested in him? I'd hate to just leave him here for any random mamono that happens by"

"As a matter of fact I did. There was a lot more to that Cheshire lead than we initially thought. Sounds like ol' Norton here was a really dense childhood friend type"

<"Well, it's only like a block away right? Go ahead and fill her in. I'll make sure Mr. lete here doesn't dehydrate himself from crying much"

"Can do"

----------

>Man, this rain is getting annoying

>Fortunately that's what you brought the trenchcoat for

>A little bell rings out as you push open the door to The Smiling Cheshire, letting the owner know of a new customer's arrival

>An uncharacteristically-proper Cheshire cat is directing her werecat baristas to various customers when she notices you come in

<"Oh hello again, Mr. Ymous! How's that errand you asked me about

"Actually, I came here to discuss that with you again. But can I get a couple of hot cocoas first?"

<"Yessiree, coming right upr

>About a minute later, you're sitting in a booth with a warm mug in your hands and Jeanine sitting across from you

<"So did you have more questions for me about Nort?"

"Quite far from it. I don't mean to alarm you, or make you drop whatever you're doing here in the cafe, but we did actually figure out his location"

>Jeanine's face turns pale, she starts gripping the table so hard you think for a second that her claws might leave a mark on it

<"W-what? You found him? I haven't been gotten a word from him since graduation!"

"We have our ways, Miss Larpshire"

>Jeanine starts to blush as she sheepishly finds the word she wants to ask next

<"So uh, is he..."

"Still single? Yes, and he just so happens to be in a state of crippling loneliness. Here's the address."

>You slide her a scrap of paper, which she starts reading first with fervor, then with surprise and indignation

>Jeanine stands up, fire in her eyes as she begins to shout

<"WHAT?! HE WAS ONE BLOCK BEHIND ME THIS WHOLE TIME?! OH THAT FUCKING TEASE, I'M GONNA MEME HIS ASS SO HARD HE'LL BE SEEING NYAN CATS FOR A MONTH!"

>By the end of the rant she has a victorious smile plastered across her face

>It's rather infectious, and you find yourself grinning as well

>She turns to one of her werecat baristas

<"Maria, you're in charge for the rest of the day, and you're all getting overtime pay for the whole day too."

<"Yes, ma'am'"

>As Jeanine then proceeds to rush out the door, she tums back once more to address you

<"Thank you so much, Mr. Ymous! Whatever you order is on the house for a month!"

"Much obliged"

>Jeanine slams the shut on her way out, leaving you to pull out your phone so as to text Lucy

"She's otw. I'd reckon an ETA of 1 minute from now"

>"KK. We going back to the station to take care of the paperwork?"

"Not quite yet. Come over to the cafe, I've us free victory cocoa."

----------

>You had hoped that the rain might let up before you and Lucy finished your cocoa

>Unfortunately those hopes turned out to be ill-founded

>In fact, it almost looks like it's somehow raining harder now

>You stared out at the downpour, your eyes furrowed

>Lucy, meanwhile, was studying your face, squinting at you

<"If you're thinking of getting us another round to kill more time, don't try it."

>You blink, and turn your attention back to the cupid

"Just thinking about how much this weather'll suck to drive through is all."

>Lucy looks unconvinced

<"Chief's not gonna take that as an excuse for a late return, you know that. Especially not from you."

>You sigh

"Yeah, yeah I know. We can head back now, if you're so intent on finishing up that paperwork."

>She mutters as the two of you stand up out of the booth

<"Of course you choose NOW to become a procrastinator..."

>You both cease to look the other in the eye

>You know the conversation is bullshit, the paperwork is the last thing on either of your minds

-----------

>The paperwork really does suck though

>Filing the case report is always such a chore

>Not to mention the wedding invitations that'll inevitably show up once Jeanine's finished 'catching up' with Norton

>You and Lucy silently fill out the forms while sitting across from one another, the only sound in the air being that of fingers rapidly hitting keys

>You hit 'enter' one last time, and lean back, stretching yourself out

>Finally, that only took an hour and a half

>In your peripheral vision you can see Lucy eyeing you with envy

>You always were the quicker writer

>Your sense of satisfaction quickly evaporates when a familiar figure shows up next to you

>A mature, put-upon hellhound in uniform stands only a few feet away

>You put on a tired smile

"Hey Chief."

>She returns a similar expression

<"Good afternoon Anon. You finished with the Iete case?"

>You nod

"Lucy's still filling out her share, the slowpoke. But I'm all done, yeah."

>This earns you a slap on the leg by the cupid

>The Chief exhales

<"Good. I need you in my office, if you don't mind."

>You can feel your heart sink into your chest

>You knew this was coming for a while, you're just gonna have to deal with it

"Alright."

>The hellhound pivots on her heel and heads towards her office, and you begin to follow

>You shoot Lucy one last glance

>She eyes you sympathetically

>After a few seconds, you close the door behind you

>The Chief is already sitting at her desk, her hands tented

<"Sit down, Anon."

>You do so

<"You know what day it is, correct?"

"April 14th."

<"Don't play dumb with me, detective."

>You sigh

"Okay...It's 7 days before my birthday."

>The hellhound stares at you a moment longer

>Man she's really not playing around

"...My 30th birthday."

>The chief leans back

<"That's correct. I'm sure you understand the government's policy on the age limits for Arrow Runners?"

"That I'm about to reach it? Yes ma'am, I do."

<"Then I'm sure you understand what happens next."

>You look down

<"Anon, you've been a godsend to this department ever since you joined on fresh out of the academy. You've tracked down more unsanctioned wizards and potential wizards than I can remember off the top of my head."

"67 marriages, and 2 alps"

>Chief's eyebrow raises at your memory

<"And you're that dedicated to the job. Unfortunately, policy is clear. I'm informing you now that today marks the end of your tenure as our department's Arrow Runner. We'll have your and Lucy's replacements coming in soon."

>Your eyelids hang low

"I understand"

<"As for yourself, I'm sure you understand what else has to happen soon."

"My retraining package?"

>Chief returns to leaning forward into her hands

<"That's correct. I'm giving you two weeks to recieve it. If you're still able and willing by the end of that, we'll be happy to have you back."

"I guess we'll find out"

>The Hellhound looks at you with mild concern, but continues

<"In the meantime, I'm not going to ask for your gun, but I am gonna need you to hand in your badge."

"Right"

>You stand up and fish your badge out of your pocket, placing it on the Chief's desk

"Is that everything?"

<"Yes, it is. Anon Ymous, it has been a pleasure having you work as our department's Arrow Runner, and I wish you good luck in the next two weeks. You should go home."

"I think I will."

>You turn around and, with feet that feel like lead, head for the door out of the chief's office

>You stop, and look back one more time

"...May I ask about the specifics of my retraining package?"

>The Chief's mood lightens a little as she smirks

<"Nice try. However, I have left that to the discretion of the persons involved."

"Heh. That's what I figured. Worth a shot."

>You open the door and leave the office

>You walk slowly towards your desk to get your personal affects

>Lucy appears to have finished typing

>You lock eyes with the cupid for a moment, telling her everything she needs to know

>Mostly things she probably already knows

>You both avert your eyes as you grab your things

>Lucy then speaks up

<"So, you gonna be busy on your birthday?"

"Probably. Why?"

<"Well, I was thinking. I've got your gift ready. If you want it early, I can give it to you before you leave. Spare you the suspense and all."

>You pause for a moment as you pick up your trenchcoat

>Might not be a bad idea

>You give it a moment's thought

>Then decide against it

"I appreciate the offer, Lucy. But I'm willing to wait. You just bring me your gift when you can, alright?"

>You hear the cupid audibly swallow

<"Alright, if that's what you really want. I'll see ya, Anon."

>You fasten the last button on your trenchcoat

"Likewise, Luce."

------------

>You walk briskly through the city streets

>It's still raining, of course

>You'd checked the forecast earlier, looks like it's gonna be this way for the whole next week

>Great

>At least it'll help reduce your visibility some

>That said, you still can't slow down your pace

>You need to get back to your apartment with time to spare before the MCPD's day shift ends

>There's only a couple hours left

>You probably would've had more time if you hadn't insisted on completing the Iete case

>Old habits die hard, you guess

>No reason to dwell on it now in any case

>Eventually you reach your building, ascend the elevator, and make your way into your apartment

>Everything's still as you left it

>Good, looks like you don't have to worry about anyone taking a head start on you yet

>You don't bother taking your boots off, even though they're soaked

>Wastes too much time

>You walk into your room

>A longing glance is cast towards your PC

>You probably won't be finishing VCOM 5 anytime soon, depending on how this goes

>You return your focus to the task at hand

>Opening up your closet, you grab a small bag, and put it into the pocket of your trenchcoat

>You feel the coins inside jingle a little

>Good thing you took a bunch of cash out ahead of time for this, no relying on cards

>Getting back into the living room, you consider what else you may need to bring with you

>Hmm

>Some food maybe, just in case

>You open up your pantry, looking for something light

>You don't want to bring anything you can't keep on your person

>Your eyes settle on some beef jerky, and a few protein bars

>Grabbing both the items, you put them into a couple ziploc bags and put them in the other pocket of your coat

>Well, that should be everything you need

>You make sure to flick all the lights off, and close the door behind you

>You're not exactly sure when you'll be able to sleep in your bed next

>Could be a while, or you might be back tonight, if you screw up really badly

>Your rumination on this almost leaves you too distracted to avoid bumping into the person in front of you

>Thankfully, you catch yourself

>Moving your gaze up from the ground reveals a grey-haired Fox-woman

<"Well, well, well! Somebody's extra oblivious today!"

>Oh good, it's just Louise, one of your two elderly neighbors

>You smile apologetically

"Sorry about that, Mrs. Redding. Been a long day."

>The Youko giggles at your polite tone

<"Oh, it's quite alright Anon, dearie. You managed to catch youself before any harm was done. If I may though, what's got you so distracted?"

>You wave her off

"It's nothing, really. Just a tricky case and all. Gonna have to head out of town to deal with it, so you might not see much of me for the next couple weeks."

>Louise nods sagely

<"I understand. Otis'll probably be happy to have you gone for a while, won't have to worry about keeping the noise down and all, fufu~"

>You snort as the fox-woman giggles

"Hey, give that old coot my regards, would you?"

<"Of course, Anon. You run along now, and get to work on that case!"

>You nod

"Right. Oh, and Louise?"

>She turns her head back to you once more before opening her apartment door

"If Louise happens to come by looking for me, tell her not to worry about springing my surprise early. Oh and don't let her know I'm headed for the Snakeville suburbs."

<"Sure, if she comes by I'll do that."

"Thanks"

>With that, you turn away and head to the elevator

>As you descend the elevator shaft, you mentally plan your route

>The suburbs are a distraction, in all likelihood they'll have checkpoints waiting for you outside the city

>Therefore you'll have to pick the opposite direction, and simply retreat further into downtown

>You can take a bit of a winding path down there, but ultimately there's one destination you can count on to keep you in the dark for as long as possible

>You're gonna have to head into the purple light district

------------

>After a lengthy walk through town, you found what you figured was the perfect bus-stop to take you where you needed to go

>Far away from your apartment, and a relatively sparsely-used part of the route too

>Unfortunately, it wouldn't get to the stop for another 20 minutes or so

>That does at least give you time to grab a bite to eat

>You decided to get something from the nearby burger joint

>You walk in and reach the counter, where what appears to be an enthusiastic Ratotoskr with a raccoon mask greets you

<"Hello sir, and welcome to Nukiburger! May I take your order?"

"Just a Nukiburger single and a small vanilla shake, please."

<"Coming right up!"

>There's nobody else in line, so you elect to wait at the counter

>While doing so, the cashier decides to make some conversation

<"You don't look like one of our regulars, what brings you here?"

"I was hungry."

>The ratotoskr smirks

<"My, somebody's getting coy. Anything to hide, Mr. Hungry Man?"

>You shrug nonchalantly

<"Just waiting for the bus"

>This causes her to perk an eyebrow in mild concern

<"You do know where that bus goes, right?"

>You don't respond

>This only makes her smirk turn into a grin

<"Oh ho, somebody's looking for a good time, then?"

>Seems like Squirrel Girl here can't stop her urge to gather info, even at work

"I have my reasons."

<"Sure."

>The cashier sniffs the air

<"Well, you definitely smell single...mostly? Huh, maybe all the fast food smells are getting to me, but it almost smells like-"

"I'll take my order to go, please."

---------

>It only took a minute or two after that for your food to finish

>You stood by the door, looking out towards the bus stop

>It still wouldn't be here for a little bit

>The cashier's voice snapped you out of your focus and caused you to turn around

<"Sir? Here's your order."

>Oh hey, she carried it over to you, that's nice

"Thank you."

<"Sorry if I got a bit carried away there with the questioning."

"Don't worry about it."

<"I just get a little stir-crazy on the slower days like this..."

>You see a shadow flit across the cashier's face as she apologizes

>Instinct kicks in

>You duck just as an object crashes through the glass door and flies over your head, into the wall

>You roll back to the counter before taking a look at where the object embedded itself

>A Golden Arrow

>Shit, she was quicker on the uptake than you'd hoped

>The Ratotoskr cashier is confused and shocked, backing away as well, over to your position

<"W-what was that?! Oh Maou, is that door coming out of my paycheck?!"

>Her panic ends as a familiar figure floats through the doorway

>You get back to your feet as you lock eyes with the cupid

"Hey Lucy."

>Your Cupid partner looks back at you with cold intensity

<"You just had to run, didn't you, Anon?"

---------

>With that curt exchange over, Lucy nocks another arrow and immediately lets it fly

>Thinking quickly, you grab the cashier by the arm and yank her in front of you

<"W-what are you doin-GAH!"

>The arrow goes straight into her midsection, and the squirrel-girl's reaction is almost immediate

>As is that of Lucy, whose eyes widen in mild alarm

>You can tell she is losing some strength in her legs already, so you prop her against the counter and snatch your bag of food out of her hands

>You then jump away as Lucy rushes your position

>However she doesn't turn to give chase to you, focusing instead on the cashier

>That's exactly what you figured would happen

>Lucy pulls the arrow out and holds the girl's head in her hands, speaking to her semi-conscious form

<"Hey now, no. You don't get to look at him. Let's see... there. Jogger across the street. Look at him instead."

>When the Ratotoskr's eyes lock onto the jogger and her pupils turn into hearts, Lucy breathes a sigh of relief, though she immediately grimaces in annoyance as she turns to the doorway to try and relocate you

>You don't see any of this of course, you were already running as soon as you verified that Lucy was distracted

>By now you're near the end of the block, close to the bus stop

>C'mon, c'mon, where is it?

>This isn't good

>You thought you'd bought yourself more time. Evidently Lucy saw through your misdirection attempt.

>In any case it's probably gonna be a bit longer before the bus gets here, so you're gonna have to deal with Lucy until then

>Speaking of that Cupid...

>You turn around as you hear the beat of wing flaps

>She's floating about 10 feet off the ground, looking down at you wth a somewhat perturbed expression

<"Standing your ground this time?"

"I don't expect to be able to run faster than you can fly."

<"You could've just stayed put in your apartment and waited for me. That would've saved us both far more time."

"Yeah, well, I thought I'd try my luck anyway."

<"Remind me never to let you play blackjack."

>As soon as her right arm tenses up to grab another arrow, you thrust you hand into your coat pocket and grab your gun

>You're a bit of a quickdraw, but so is she, so you line each other up at about the same time

>You also fire at the same time

>Fortunately for you, bullets are faster than arrows

>As such you have just enough time to dodge the arrow

>It just barely clips the edge of your trenchcoat's collar, leaving a tear

>Your bullet, meanwhile, strikes exactly where you aimed it, hitting Lucy in her left bicep

>She tries to will her bow-arm to movement again, but it's hopelessly numbed by the demon silver

>You get a small grin as Lucy shoots you a dirty look, while she slings the bow onto her back with her good arm

>The grin goes away as you see her then proceed to pull another arrow out, holding it in her hand

>She then begins rushing right at you at full speed

>Right, you've disabled her ranged attacks, but those arrows are just as effective when stabbed into a man as when fired from a bow

>You quickly level your revolver at her

>You almost pull the trigger, but stop yourself when just before reaching you, Lucy suddenly veers straight into the sky

>You crane your head up to follow her as she soars over you

>She's doing a loop

>You duck and somersault backwards, just before she can complete the loop and spear you in the back

>She lands a few more feet in front of you, panting slightly

>You're doing the same

>Those wings are gonna need to be neutralized if you want any chance of getting away

>This isn't looking good

>Suddenly the sound of heavy brakes reaches you ears

>It's almost here. Good.

>Lucy tries to discourage you again

<"You know you can't keep this up forever. I only have to hit you once and this is over. Your bullets don't have the same power."

"They don't have to. All they need to do is make you slower than a city bus."

>As if on cue, you hear the bus round the corner onto this street

>Lucy is momentarily distracted

>You instantly aim and fire again

>The bullet strikes true once again, this time nailing the Cupid in her left wing

>A shiver goes down Lucy's spine as the demon silver sends more pleasant numbness into her, bringing her down to one knee

>That should render her unable to fly for the immediate future

<"Just how long... do you intend... to keep this up?"

>You shrug

"We'll play it by ear. For now, I have a bus to catch. Take care of yourself, Lucy."

>You holster your gun and step into the bus which has now stopped right next to you

>As you step in, the bus driver eyes you and the kneeling cupid outside warily

>"Is uh, is everything alright with her?"

>You dig into your pocket

"Don't worry, she'll be on my ass again in an hour or two-"

>You pull out a few coins

"- and I'll pay triple the fee, so don't sweat it."

>The driver looks at the coins in your hand, and then shrugs, pulling the lever to close the bus doors

>You nod, and dump the coins into their container before heading down the aisle to find a vacant seat

>It's not exactly a packed bus

>Just a couple or two, some single mamono, and a few very nervous-looking men

>You find a seat to claim for yourself, with a window next to the sidewalk

>You sit down, and look out to see the form of Lucy, slowly getting back to her feet

>She glares at you, but with an element of something else in her eyes

>Worry, perhaps?

>You stare back at her apologetically

>This is just how it's gonna be for now

>She's gonna chase you, and you're gonna run until one of you wins

>It's a bummer, but you're going to see it through

>You turn your gaze away as the bus turns off of the street

>Your stomach growls at you

>Holy shit you almost forgot about your food

>Thankfully you kept hold of it the entire time

>Eating your burger should be a good way to pass the time on your bus ride

------------

>It didn't take too long for the bus to reach your destination

>The skies were already dim from all the clouds, but they seemed to just get darker as you got further into the depths of the city

>Of course it was also becoming night, so that was a factor

>As the light of the sun retreated, a purplish hue began to overtake it as the chief source of illumination

>It is the light of hundreds of buildings, and thousands of Mamono and their husbands within them, filling the air with demonic energy, as well as using the color for all sorts of light fixtures

>Almost like smog, but far more pleasant and much more stylish

>This was the Purple Light District, aptly named for the environmental quirk which often dominated it

>Of course, that's not the only reason for it to be so titled

>You're too young to know much about the world before the DOTR, but apparently the name was borrowed from an old human term for the parts of cities most heavily-dominated by brothels and prostitutes

>Mamono and prostitution of course do not mesh together at all, except perhaps as a one-time ploy to capture an unwitting husband-to-be

>However, this was the part of town with THE highest concentration of single mamono

>Thus, it is the quickest place to find one's self a wife, and one of the most dangerous places on the planet to be for a single man

>The entire district is essentially one giant speed-dating arena

>Naturally, industries have sprung up to support and profit from the massive amount of traffic this brings

>As you stare out the window, you see a seemingly endless procession of love hotels, couples restaurants, and similar businesses

>Not to mention a similarly infinite crowd of mamono and men surging between these buildings

>The bus begins to slow down as it pulls up to its stop

>You know this is the last place any man trying not to get raped should be

>And that's why you came here

>The bus finally slows to a halt

>You stand up and wait for the other occupants to filter out before strolling towards the door

>You see the driver giving you a worried look as you throw the container for your fast food into the trash can, but you ignore it and exit the bus

>Blending into the crowd easily, you begin moving up the street

>You have a very particular place planned in your head for where to start laying low

>You're not sure how long it'll take Lucy to catch up, but hopefully you should at least be able to get a night's rest

>As you pass through the crowds, you take note of the large amount of mamono around you, as well as the advances some of the more amorous ones make

>You counted at least 20 uncomfortably close nudges, 7 light touches, and at least two attempts at groping your crotch

>Fortunately you know how to keep your hands in a good place to prevent such efforts

>This is also ignoring the multitude of pickup lines and propositions thrown in your direction

>It's only natural, you don't begrudge them for it

>You do your best to block it out and keep moving

>You keep your hand on your gun, as well

>Just in case one of them gets a little too frisky

>Suddenly you hear a siren

>Oh shit

>Police coming by

>They likely aren't after you, but if they spot you, they might notify Lucy

>Sounds like they're coming from the corner up ahead

>You turn, and see a convenient alley

>Trying to be as nonchalant as possible, you turn towards the alcove, and lean back against its wall

>You tip your head down, eyeing the street in your peripheral vision

>The siren grows ever louder, until you see a flash of red, blue, and white pass by

>Just as you thought, they're probably just chasing after some panty thief or something

>You breath a sigh of relief before a feminine voice catches your attention

<"Well hey there Tall, Dark, and Lonesome. You always go lookin for love in alleyways?~"

>You turn your gaze to the shadowed part of the alley

>A form steps out of the darkness, to reveal a black-furred werewolf

>Seems like a small fry

"Just taking a breather."

>It's not often you find a werewolf hunting alone

>She's either unlucky, or very cocky

<"A man like you should know not try and 'take a breather' in a place like this"

>Her eyes tell you she's probably the latter

>She takes an opportunistic step forward

>She's ready to pounce, it's time to defuse this

>You whip out your revolver, leveling it at her in half a second

"Believe me, I know my way around."

>You see the wolfgirl's eyes widen noticeably

>She raises her arms and backs away

<"I guess you do. No need to shoot, I'm not that stupid."

>You don't move your gun

"I won't have to as long as you don't try anything stupid. Easier for both of us that way."

>You'd prefer not to have to fire if at all possible

>You only have so much ammo, and it would draw attention you really don't need

>That she backed down so quickly tells you a lot

"You haven't been a lone wolf very long, have you?"

>She averts her eyes and her ears droop a little

<"Was it that obvious?"

>You shrug

"You were overly cautious."

>Her head hangs a little lower

<"Right..."

>You study the canid girl for a moment

>She's bummed out, but not overly so

>Probably not too sad a story behind her being alone, maybe the rest of the pack just got too busy boning their husbands to help her get one for herself, or she struck out on her own

>Hmm

>You have an idea

>You've been through this part of town before, but never in this way

>Alone, that is

>Maybe you could fix that

>You adopt a somewhat sympathetic tone

"It's the right amount of caution in this case. You'll probably be able to find a man eventually, once you get a better measure of your own strength."

>You lower your revolver, but don't holster it yet

"That said, if you wanna find someone fast, I can help."

>She blinks in surprise

<"...How, exactly?"

"I can take you to one of the better places to set you up with a man. I'm heading there anyway."

>The werewolf eyes you suspiciously

<"And there's no catch? You don't want anything in return?"

"Just one thing really. I want you to hold me by the arm as we walk."

>Her eyes bug out

<"W-why?"

"I've had enough of the attention on the street. Looking like I'm taken will help deter that, and make the trip easier."

>She furrows her brow, and after a moment, sniffs the air

"Think you can do that without jumping my bones?"

>She now looks confused

<"I... I think so? I mean, are you not taken? It's faint, and I only noticed it now, but there's definitely a scent on you..."

>Huh

>That's not altogether surprising

>Don't let that show

"And it took you this long to figure that out. A succubus who wants to slap my ass walking by probably won't notice. Having a girl on my arm would help far more. Now are you up for it or not?"

<"O-oh yeah, yeah no problem, sure. B-but you better hook me up good at wherever we're going!"

>You exhale through your nose

>Guess you've found your good deed to do for the day

>You finally holster your revolver

"Don't worry, I'll do my best. Now c'mon, let's not waste any time."

---------

>Boy, she is holding onto your arm really tight

>At least her presence appears to be having the desired effect upon the various mamono in the crowd

>Some look at you and the black-furred wolfgirl with either confusion or slight jealousy

>Most, however, regard you with indifference, as they continue on their own quests for either husbands or the means to acquire them

>You can tell the werewolf is nervous

<"You... you're sure this isn't gonna cause problems for us later, right? Me holding your arm like this, I mean."

>You wave it off

"Don't worry, we're not really crossing any lines, as long as your grip doesn't drop down to my hand, which you're being pretty good about so far."

<"I guess you're right."

>She still seems apprehensive

"...You know, if anyone asks, I can just tell them you're my sister or something."

>She blinks, and then giggles a little

<"Heh. Yeah, that'll work I think. I'm not gonna call you Onii-chan though."

"Thank fuck for that"

>The speed at which you responded makes her laugh again

>After her chuckling dies down, she finds a new conversation topic

<"Hey, what should I call you then? You have a name?"

"Anon. You?"

<"Alyssa"

>You keep walking for a moment

>It occurs to you that it's somehow still raining

>Alyssa says something again

<"You smell really weird, do you know that?"

"My, what a nice compliment to the guy doing you a favor."

<"Not that way you dumbass. I mean your mana. I said before you smell faintly taken. It's really faint, but at the same time it smells deeply-set."

>You raise an eyebrow

"And what does that tell you?"

>Alyssa taps her chin with one paw in short contemplation

<"Well, if I had to guess, you've spent a very long time with a girl, but you kept her at arm's length for nearly all of it."

>You suddenly feel very uncomfortable

"That's a lot to deduce from the way I smell."

<"Well, it helps that I can also tell you're clearly a virgin."

>You almost trip on the sidewalk

"Alright, I think you can keep your smell-based observations to yourself."

>The wolf-girl snickers

<"Aww, but your scent tells such an interesting story, hehe..."

>You stop walking

"Well, we're here anyway, so you'll have to cut that story short."

>The smile leaves her face as she turns her face to the large building in front of you

>A large number of neon lights adorn the building, most of them in the shape of hearts

>Above the main doorway however, is a line of script in bright pink, English on top and Japanese below

>"Madame Abe's Dating Agency"

>Alyssa looks awestruck by the scale of the building

<"T-this is where we were going? Are you sure we can get in?"

"Of course we can. Just play it cool and follow me. Also you can let go of my arm now."

>The Werewolf looks confused for a moment, before glancing at her arm in realization and wrenching it away, filing behind you as you approach the outer door of the Agency

>An Amazon and Hellhound eye the two of you stoically

>Hmm, they look new

>As you approach, it occurs to you that you're lacking your badge

>Well damn, this may take a tad longer then

>You stop before the Amazon and look her in the eyes

"I won't try to get past you, but if you don't mind, please inform the Madame that Detective Ymous is here."

>The muscular tanned woman narrows her eyes at you

<"Detective, huh? How would you even know the Madame?"

>Alyssa looks up from behind your shoulder timidly

>You keep your face stony

"Well if you wanna make it difficult, I'm sure Nayuta would love to explain to you how you botched a meeting with one of her associates."

>The Amazon's face almost immediately pales, and her expression begins looking panicked

>Using the Madame's first name seems to have done the trick

>The bouncer tries not to stammer as she responds

<"...Jessica, go tell the Madame."

>The Hellhound, similarly blanched, quickly enters the door

>Alyssa harshly whispers as you wait

<"Detective?! Just who the hell are you?!"

"Somebody who's gonna get you into this building, now pipe down."

>She proceeds to quiet down, and soon the hellhound returns

<"The Madame will see you."

----------

>You and Alyssa follow the Hellhound bouncer into the building, which is buzzing with a level of mamono traffic only slightly lower than the streets outside

>Soon the three of you are standing within an elevator, which rises to a level that clearly worries Alyssa

<"I'm so confused, is it really okay for me to be here?"

>You don't look at her, but give words of encouragement

"Don't worry, it's not as scary as it looks."

>Once the elevator reaches the intended floor (only 3 stories down from the top), the door opens, and you exit

>Alyssa follows you with some trepidation, but the hellhound stays behind

>You and your werewolf companion soon stand before an enormous couch/bed, occupied by a lone figure

>A woman lays sprawled across the bed, adorned in flowing robes reminiscient of a kimono

>The ornate pipe in her hands draws a clear connection to the unnatural smoke that fills this room

>Her expression looks smug and collected, but that is quickly joined by an air of excitement as the Nurarihyon's eyes come to rest upon you

<"Anon! My esteemed associate, it's been so long since you were here!"

>You smile and wave to the Yokai as you reply

"Oh c'mon, it's only been a month or two, Nayuta. And we've kept in touch during that time. Also, where's Tony?"

<"My sweetums is giving himself a shave in the other room. He should be out in a minute."

>Nayuta rises from her bed to step forward

<"And you know it's never too soon to see one of my best links to budding wizards!"

>She then embraces you in a friendly hug

>Alyssa steps back, gazing in even deeper confusion than before

>After letting go of you, Nayuta speaks again

<"So, what brings you back into the seedy underbelly of Mamono City? Did that Norton you were chasing turn out unconnected?"

>You shake your head

"Sadly for you, no. He did end up having a single childhood friend. Turned out to be a full-fledged wizard too."

>She pouts slightly and snaps her fingers

<"Well shoot, I was hoping I could make a pretty penny finding the perfect girl for him. But then, I suppose he's already found her."

>Nayuta quickly bounces back, barraging you with further questions

<"So what do you need then? And does it have anything to do with the werewolf behind you? Oh, and where's Lucy? OOOOOH, are you setting up a harem?!"

>Alyssa is as pale as a ghost behind you

>You put a hand on the Nurarihyon's shoulder to keep her still

"Okay, Nayuta I'm gonna need you to relax for a moment before I answer those questions."

>She does stop trying to vibrate off of the ground, so that's and improvement

>You sigh, and continue

"I will answer those four questions in reverse order: NO, I am not. Lucy's out on another job right now. The werewolf just helped me get here without trouble, so I'm doing her a favor. And finally, I'm here to ASK a favor from you."

>Nayuta taps her cheek with the end of her pipe

<"Well, you've been quite the boon to my career, so I'm inclined to grant this favor. What exactly is it?"

"Not much, I'm just looking for a place to stay, for a week at most, likely less."

>She blows a raspberry and waves it off

<"Pssssh, that's not a problem in the slightest! I'll have one of my girls prepare a room for you. I assume the remaining matter involves the favor you're doing for her?"

"Yeah, I was hoping you would help pair her up, as thanks for her helping me out."

>She eyes the still-nervous Alyssa

<"Hmmm... Well, I normally charge for it, but I guess I can go pro bono in this case. Come here dearie, I'll get you set up."

>The werewolf looks shocked

<"R-really? Thank you, ma'am!"

>Well that seems to be working out

"I'll go ahead and find my room, then."

<"Wait, Anon, before you go-"

>Alyssa stops for a second and gives you a sudden hug out of gratitude

<"Thanks for helping me out, I really appreciate it"

>Huh, this feels weird

>But at least it isn't sexual

>It's like when a little sister or close cousin hugs you for helping them beat a game or something

>You pat her shoulder awkwardly

"Hey, don't mention it. I'm just paying it back for you helping me."

>She then breaks off and goes back to Nayuta

>Smiling at the excited werewolf, you turn around and head to the elevator

>Now to get acquainted with your accomodations...

----------

>A friendly werecat soon showed you to your room

>On the second floor, at your request

>High enough that nobody could just hop in from the street opportunistically, but close enough to the ground that the windows are still at least a somewhat viable escape route

>Once the werecat attendant had left, you closed the blinds (just to be safe) and finally took your trenchcoat off

>It had been a long day

>A glance at your phone gave the time as 11:30

>Wow, did it really take you that long to walk to Nayuta's place?

>Well, the crowds WERE pretty thick

>In any case, you could reliably guess that Lucy wouldn't be coming after you tonight, not herself anyway

>She probably went back to the station to map out where you were going and prepare for a Purple Light District foray

>That, and even servants of Eros need to sleep

>Speaking of sleep, your eyelids were starting to feel pretty heavy

>Might as well get some shut-eye while you can

----------

>You open the door to your instructor's office, feeling slightly nervous

>An immaculate police uniform adorns your frame

>No idea what Instructor Rittenwurst could want from you today, especially so close to graduation

>But in any case you should show up looking your best

>The middle-aged man is sitting at his desk, but there's a third occupant in the room besides yourself that surprises you

>An aloof-looking girl sits in the chair on your side of Rittenwurst's desk, turning to face you as you enter

>The wings sprouting from her back tip you off that she's some sort of angelic girl

>You and her immediately size each other up

>She's got lightly tanned skin and pink hair, tied into a braid, somewhat obscured by her white cap

>You can see a bow and quiver of arrows on her back as well

>Must be a cupid

>And a pretty cute one too

>Do they all have that nice of faces?

>It suddenly occurs to you that said face is scanning you methodically

>Oh shit, is she gonna think you're some sort of spazz for showing up in full dress?

>Instructor Rittenwurst clears his throat, catching your attention

>"Cadet Ymous, how nice of you to join us. Go ahead and take a seat won't you?"

>You turn towards him and blink

"O-oh, yes sir."

>You walk over and sit down next to the cupid

>She looks at you out of the corner of her eye

>You try to ignore it

>Rittenwurst begins

>"Now Anon, I'm sure you're wondering why I called you here just 3 days before your graduation ceremony..."

"Yes I am, sir. I hope I haven't caused some sort of problem-"

>Your instructor cuts you off with a chortle

>"Haha, you're not in any trouble Anon. In fact you've been a model cadet. That's actually the main reason I called you in here, since your performance in the academy appears to have drawn some attention..."

>Oh sweet, you're not in trouble

>Time to calm down your heartrate

>Hmm, so then what kind of 'attention' are you drawing?

>You suddenly remember the cupid's presence next to you

>She's probably got something to do with it

>You should probably say something to her so you don't look like a dick

"So is that where you come in, miss...?"

<"Lucelia Redmane. I'm gonna be honest, you seem a bit soft for this."

>Damn, that was cold

>Probably just best to talk to Rittenwurst for most of this

>You turn back to the instructor

"And what exactly is 'this'?"

>A wry grin appears on the man's face

>"Still haven't caught on, have you? The church of Eros sent us Ms. Redmane here because there's a new wave of recruitment for Arrow Runners going out. And you just happen to have the right qualifications."

>No way

>This can't be real

>You feel your heart rising up in your throat

>You can't control the smile that comes onto your face

"R-really? I can't believe it!"

>He laughs again

>"Believe it or not, they came to me asking for a recommendation, and you were the best man for the job I could think of."

>You start feeling a little light-headed

>Lucelia rolls her eyes in your peripheral vision, but you don't care

>Arrow Runners are the cream of the crop, they get to be the expert detectives of the police force, defeating countless paragons of magical bullshit with nothing but tools and their own wits

>You always wanted to become one, but you never thought it would actually happen!

>This is awesome!

>It feels like your heart's gonna leap out of your chest!

"T-this is amazing, thank you so much! How does this start? where do we go from here? Wh-"

>Rittenwurst holds up a hand to stop you

>"WOAH there eager beaver, you only just got accepted. What happens next is you go into further training, once your graduation from this academy is finalized. Ms. Redmane is going to be your partner, and the two of you will be trained together until you're a two-person wizard-busting machine."

>Oh yeah, Arrow Runners do always work with Cupids, right

>You turn once again to evaluate Lucelia

>She seems a bit aloof, but you'll probably get along well enough, given time, right?

>Let's see if you can't get a head start

>You extend a hand to the Cupid, a big smile still plastered across your face

"Well, it sounds like we're gonna be seeing a lot of each other then. You can call me Anon."

>She keeps her arms crossed for a moment, much to your concern

<"I take it back. You're REALLY soft for this..."

>Uuuuhhh...

>She then sighs, and seems to giggle very softly under her breath

<"...Buuuut I guess that's what training's for. Nice to meet you Anon."

>She then finally receives your hand with her own, causing you to breathe an internal sigh of relief

>Man, her hand is awfully soft

>And warm

>You feel her fingers start to interlock with your own...

----------

>You open your eyes

>Huh

>You don't remember that last bit happening

>Must be the ambient mana around here messing with you

>Or maybe it's just that you haven't beaten it for a couple days, not like you've really had the time

>Whatever, shake it off for now

>You glance at the clock on your phone

>8 AM

>6 days now, until your birthday...

----------

>How the fuck is it still raining?

>This city must have some damn good drainage systems for you to not see any flooding yet

>At least it does seem pretty light today

>You leisurely slurp on some ramen at the little Zipangese pavilion you chose for your lunch destination

>Reaching Nayuta's place was a major starting objective, and you got a good night's sleep out of it, but you can't stay there during the day

>It's not exactly the last place Lucy would think to look, she's been there too, after all

>The less time you spend there, the longer it'll take for your residual mana to build up to the point where Lucy can verify that you've been hanging around there

>Fortunately Nayuta was willing to keep silent about your residence

>That should buy you at least two nights, including the one you just spent, before Lucy can really catch on

>As such, you decided it would be best to leave bright and early, and spend most of the day wandering around the Purple Light District

>It doesn't really quite live up to its name during daylight hours, both literally and figuratively

>The sun overpowers the ambient lighting for one thing

>And mamono around here only seem to get really rambunctious during the night, which you would attribute to any number of reasons

>Whatever the cause, the mamono filling the streets at this hour were, in comparison, both less numerous and less aggressive

>Which is great for you, because that usually means any of them that hang around you for any significant amount of time don't get too handsy before noticing that you're claimed

>Like the Ochimusha who's serving your meal right now, she hasn't really even tried flirting with you at all

>Granted, you still made sure to check your food and drink for "aphrodisiacs", but that's just good sense, no matter what time of the day it was

>As you get close to finishing your noodles, you check your phone

>1:15 pm

>Hmm

>If Lucy stopped at Nayuta's first to check for you (which you expect she would), she's probably about finished searching the building

>Which means she'll likely start searching the general area now

>You should get going

"Thanks for the grub, miss."

>You slap enough coins onto the counter to leave a good tip, and hurriedly begin walking out of the pavilion and down the street

>Only question now is where to go in order to keep away from your pursuer until the end of the day

>Well, there is one thing you intend to do first that should kill some time

>You can go to some of the outer areas of the district in order to check how easily you could escape if need be

>There's obviously a lot of ways in and out of the purple light district, it's not exactly an island or anything

>However there are some major thoroughfares you'd like to check, both because they could make good escape routes in a pinch, and because the police presence there should help you get a handle on how much backup Lucy's pulling in for this

----------

>You're now leaning against the wall of what's either an apartment or a very discrete love hotel

>This is Venom street, one of the main roads that make up the PLD

>You're pretty close to the outskirts of the area, Venom street crosses into downtown only a few blocks from here

>And that's about as close as you wanna be to the outer city right now

>Any closer and and cops around the entrance might notice you

>You do happen to see what looks like some uniforms, looking a good ways down the street

>It's times like these that you wish you'd brought your binoculars along

>Alas you didn't want your pockets to be too crowded

>For now, your phone's camera should suffice

>You zoom in on the couple of officers

>Looks like a manticore and... a Girtablilu?

>Oh boy, bet there's a lot of things those two can agree on

>They look pretty relaxed, mostly just chatting with each other

>Every now and then, though, one of them looks out, seemingly to scan the passing crowd

>Well that's interesting

>There's only two of them, which obviously isn't much, and could easily be credited to a normal patrol

>These two definitely aren't patrolling though

>As far as you can recall, the department doesn't normally have people posted here all day, especially in mid-afternoon

>And they do seem to be looking for someone

>Could possibly be any random smuggler or serial handholder

>However in your situation, it pays to be paranoid

>Let's check some of the other major streets, just to make sure this isn't simple correlation

---------

>Oh yeah, you're noticing a theme here

>Groups of two, at every major exit from the PLD

>Assuming that it's for you, you can make some decent conclusions from this

>1. Their presence means Lucy is definitely calling in some of the department's manpower

>2. Two uniforms aren't necessarily enough to take down an armed and trained officer by themselves. They are here to note your presence and keep track of you if they can spot you.

>3. They're not moving any deeper into the district, just holding a loose perimeter around a fairly large part of the city

>Based off of all that, it seems likely that your Cupid partner is doing most of the legwork (or wingwork maybe) herself

>Lucy never really was a team player with anyone who wasn't you

>She's probably just gonna search for you in here alone, and rely on the others in case you try to make a break for it and escape the PLD

>That's sort of a relief, actually

>Aside from maybe the average patrol coming through, you shouldn't have to worry about too much heat that isn't Lucy

>Then again, a cupid who has you in her sights is a lot of heat on her own

>As if reading your mind, a familiar winged girl appears, flying over the crowd moving through the street

>Fuck, it's like you summoned her

>You need to vanish

>You turn your head down, a cap you borrowed from Nayuta covering your head

>Just duck into the nearest alley, and you should be alright, barring another incident with an opportunistic mamono

>You find a fittingly narrow passage, and head towards it

>As you move, you keep your head tilted just enough so that Lucy stays in the corner of your eye

>She still just seems to be cruising along

>Suddenly her head turns in your direction

>Shit

>Her eyes narrow

>Double shit

>And she changes course to head towards you

>This is totally not good

>Luckily you just reached the alley's entrance

>Turning into it as casually as possible, you check to make sure you're out of Lucy's sight for the moment

>You are. Good.

>She'll be here in a few seconds probably, but that gives you time to run

>If you can get between the buildings, there's no shortage of hiding spots you could lose her in

>You break into a dead sprint

>There's a little alley intersection ahead

>You turn left, then keep running

>She's probably pretty close behind you now

>If she gets a visual on you here, then you're in deep shit

>You would be the fish in the proverbial barrel

>You notice something near your feet

>It's a basement window

>Open and just wide enough for a man to slip through

>Perfect

>You drop down into a slide, letting your momentum take you through the opening

>It's a bit of a drop to the basement floor

>You land on your feet, a little unsteadily, but safely

>Immediately you turn around and pull the window closed as gently as you can

>You then flatten yourself against the wall next to it

>The room is dark, the only light being what's coming in through the window

>You watch that light, breath held

>A shadow slowly comes to block some of the light

>A woman's shadow

>You keep silent, the only sound being that of your heartbeat

>Almost lazily, the shadow continues past, only seeming to linger a moment at the window

>You don't move a muscle

>Not until you're sure she's out of the whole alley

>After a minute, you figure Lucy must've moved on

>Phew

>You sink down onto your ass, feeling it hit cold concrete flooring

>Man, that was one hell of a coincidence

>You don't think she was even actively searching for you there, she seemed to be on her way out of the district for the moment

>In any case, it should be over-

<"Oh, well hello there mister!"

>You see an open doorway ahead of you

>There's a light in it, illuminating the silhouette of an insectoid woman

>You've seen those antennae before

>Only in the basements of the worst NEETs you'd ever had to take out

>2 forms skitter in the dark

>The one who spoke before is nice enough to flip a light switch

>The yellowish glow that envelopes the room is rather dim

>But it's all you need to confirm

>Before you stand three devil bugs

>No doubt you just hopped into a nest

>Screw the fire, you just jumped from the frying pan into the damn furnace

----------

>The devil bugs all look pretty young

>Not lolis, but like jailbait

>Maybe they're triplets

>Their cockroach-like wings flutter with anticipation

>You can't leave the way you came

>Lucy might still be out there

>The seeming leader of the three bugs speaks once again

<"I'm surprised a man just dropped in here! You're a weird one, sir."

>All three begin to slowly advance on your position

<"You're a little clean for our type, but me and my sisters are more than willing to dirty you all up~"

>Nope

>Nopenopenope

>You instantly flip your revolver out and level it at the bug with the mouth

>Her eyes widen as she stares down your barrel, and her tone seems to change rather quickly

<"Uuuuuh. C...Can you take all 3 of us?"

>She doesn't have the guts to pull a convincing bluff

>You on the other hand...

>You cock the hammer back, and keep your face stony

"Two for each of you. And more for any other sisters you might have in here."

>That's how you bluff

>Realistically, 1 of them might manage to reach you

>And while 1 well-placed demon silver bullet should be enough to take out the average devil bug, there is no way you'd have the time to reload before the rest might catch you, if there are more

>And the noise would likely alert Lucy or the Police down the block

>But all these girls need to know is that you can take them

>Beads of sweat form on the bug girl's face

>She actually looks kind of terrified

>Wow, you suddenly feel like shit

>You're holding a loaded gun at the head of what looks like a teenager, after essentially breaking into her home

>And they don't know if you're packing demon silver or lead

<"...Please don't. We'll back off, sir."

>She backs away, as do her sisters, looking rather intimidated

>Fuckin hell, you may have overdone this

>You keep your grip on the revolver firm, but when you next speak, it's with a softer, apologetic tone

"I just want to leave through your front door. Let me through, and everything will be fine."

>She gradually begins to nod, and directs her sisters to move away from the doorway of the room

>You keep the gun trained on her as you move to the next room

>It kills you, but there really isn't any other way to guarantee your safety until they can start to smell the claim on you

>It seems like a relatively small basement-level apartment, the room you've moved into appears to be the living room, and the front door is pretty close

>Slow and steady

>You make your way to the door, and cautiously open it, taking a quick peak through it to check if anything is in store for you there

>An empty hallway, leading to some stairs

>Good

>You back out through it, keeping your gun trained on the devil bug

>Once you've finally crossed the threshold, you lower your weapon, and avert your eyes with a degree of shame

"Sorry to bother you."

>You shut the door on the still confused-looking insect girls, and hurriedly turn to run up the stairs

>Well that was unpleasant, but at least all that happened was you scaring the bejeezus out of some teenagers

>Could've gone a lot worse

>On the bright side, it looks like Lucy actually cleared out of this area for good, at least for the time being

>You half expected her to keep looking a bit longer

>Even so, it'd be best if you stuck to the alleyways until you got to another part of the district

>Your perimeter examination took up most of the afternoon, and the sun's probably gonna set in an hour or two

>You could probably work your way back to Nayuta's relatively soon, though you do have another stop in mind before you hunker down for the night

-----------

>A few hours later, you're back on the same block as Nayuta's building, a small bundle of clothing under your arm

>It occurred to you after today's encounter that Lucy can easily recognize your trenchcoat in a crowd, and that's not very good for keeping a low profile from someone who can fly

>So you stopped at a clothing store run by some Arachne

>Unsurprisingly, 70% of the store's inventory was lingerie and sexy outfits for different mamono bodytypes

>However, there was a decent men's wear section, and you found something that would be a good replacement for your current wear

>It's a new trenchcoat, black this time, and with a wide-brimmed matching hat

>Your only complaint is that it makes you look like some edgy protag from an old fps of some sort

>But it should do fine for keeping Lucy off your case for a bit longer

>You approach the bouncers at the front door

>Same two as last night, which should simplify things

"We don't need to do this song and dance again, so we?"

>The Amazon pouts slightly, but nods

<"No, go ahead on in."

>Cool

>You nod back, and enter the building

>As you get into the elevator, you decide that it would be nice to pay Nayuta another visit. She is your host after all. And you have a few more things to discuss.

>Getting back up to the penthouse suite, you happen upon the Nurarihyon cuddling with her husband, who is the first to take notice of you walking in

>"Oh hey Anon, what's up?"

>You wave to him

"Hey Tony, just stopping in to say hi for the day."

>Nayuta herself hasn't still taken notice of you yet, rather surprisingly

>She instead appears to be engaged in conversation with a familiar black-furred werewolf

"I'm surprised you're still here, kiddo."

>Alyssa jumps and turns around to look at you

<"Oh, detective! M-madame Abe decided I should hang around for a bit longer I guess."

<"Yes, I want to put a bit more effort into matching up dear Alyssa here, since she is a pro bono case."

>Nayuta now turns to address you, smiling again

<"And hello, Anon! How was your outing today?"

>Her attitude is still high-energy, but she doesn't get up from her seat like last time, since that would mean uncoupling herself from Tony

"Mostly uneventful, thanks. Though I am curious about how things are going on your side of it. Did Lucy happen to show up today?"

<"As a matter of fact she did. She was quite insistent on inquiring as to your whereabouts, have you done something to get on her bad side?"

"You could say that. Did you tell her that I'm staying here?"

>The Nurarihyon waves you off

<"No, I figured that you'd prefer me not to reveal such information. I told her you had stopped by to ask some questions and deliver our fluffy friend here, and then left."

"And technically speaking that is all true. Thank you Nayuta."

>She smirks

<"Well, I do enjoy bending the truth at times. Is there anything else I can do for you tonight, detective?"

>You stand there for a moment, thinking

>It might be a good idea to prepare plan D, ahead of time

"Actually, I was wondering if you wouldn't mind me taking a look at your records for the residential district?"

<"For the case you're investigating here, I assume? Of course! I'll have one of my girls bring the records down to your quarters to examine soon. Don't forget our normal arrangement though."

"Right. If he's unclaimed, I'll bring him to you."

<"Wonderful."

"Oh, and I'll probably be out of your hair in another day or two, this shouldn't take too long."

<"You can stay as long as you need, dear."

>You turn around towards the elevator, when Nayuta calls after you once more

<"By the way Anon, I would highly recommend you work out whatever spat you have with dear Lucy before tracking anyone down. You two do compliment each other after all. It pains me to see you apart, as I'm sure it pains her."

>You face the Nurarihyon once more, smiling

"Don't worry, I'll be getting back to her soon."

-----------

>You tap your chin with a pencil pensively

>This isn't good

>Nayuta knows more than she's letting on

>Most likely Lucy told her about the situation, and she's preparing for a doublecross

>You were awfully careful re-entering your current room, checking every corner for mana traps and charms

>You had hoped to switch rooms to avoid leaving a heavy mark in one place, but that likely would've tipped Nayuta off to your foreknowledge

>By even going into the room, you're walking into a trap

>When it will spring however, you're not sure.

>Hopefully, your request for these materials and giving her a timeframe for your departure will give you enough of a window for a good night's sleep again

>You might be able to escape the building right now, but the longer you can draw out each phase of your plan, the higher the chance that you'll make it to the end of the week

>Even so, you've taken some measures to prevent hostile intrusions

>The curtains are drawn again, and you wedged a chair underneath the doorknob after a werecat delivered the records to you

>You've been poring over these for a while now, looking to find the info you need for Plan D

>If it works out, you may be home free

>And by this point, it looks like you've gotten a rough idea of where you'll need to go

>That should be enough for the night, time to get some shut-eye

>You turn the light of the room off, but you don't hop into the bed

>Instead, you pull the mattress off of the bedframe, and lay it next to the bed, along with the sheets and pillow

>Call it paranoia, but you'd prefer not to sleep where an arrow could hit you, even if the windows are closed

>Now relatively secure in your cover, you get on the mattress and try to get some sleep

-----------

>A dull pain radiates from your head as you try to sit up

>Fucking hell, this is not going great

>Only your second case as a proper Arrow Runner team and you're already in trouble

>You and Lucy's first case was just your average fag stuck up in his room, made the mistake of boasting of his impending wizardhood online

>Dumbass thought a VPN would be enough to fool the Gremlin cyber-crimes division, he folded like a deck of cards when you broke down his door

>This guy, meanwhile

>He was good

>Saw right through your "Surprise UPS delivery" gambit

>You managed to be quick enough on the draw to get a shot off first

>But that didn't exactly help

>You hear something break in the room

>*FFSSSSSSHHHH*

>As your vision refocuses, you notice a smoke filling the high-rise apartment

>A pair of feminine hands wrap around you midsection, carefully pulling you to your feet

<"You dumbass, you're not supposed to lead with the request for his birthdate!"

>You manage to make out Lucy's face, scowling at you through the smoke

"But that's what protocol says for this procedure!"

<"That protocol's meant for ASPIRING wizards, not fully-realized ones!"

"Okay, okay fine, I fucked up! We'll just have to improvise!"

>Lucy pinches the bridge of her nose in frustration

<"Alright fine. YOU 'improvise' a way for us to beat this guy, while I distract him and try to keep both of us from getting pasted by an errant spell!"

>With that, your cupid partner flies off through the slowly-dissipating smoke

>Seems like her grenade's starting to wear off

>You see a tall figure through the smoke, silhouetted by the light coming into the room

>A large beard adorns the man

>"So I'm getting a two-for-one, hmm? Such a generous deal for an old man like me."

>'Old Man'

>His beard isn't even grey yet

>The upper estimate for his age was 37

>Granted, that's evidently enough to make him a nightmare for you

>Lucy swoops in, nocking an arrow as she flies towards him

>The wizard glances in her direction as she lets the arrow fly

>A flash of light sparks out as the arrow seems to bounce off of some invisible barrier

>Yep, that's what you figured would happen

>This guys seems to have set up some passive anti-projectile barrier around himself

>Deflected most of your cylinder, that's why you got trashed so bad before

>There's gotta be a way to bypass it...

>Wait, hang on

>You watch the wizard intently as Lucy, grimacing, shoots another arrow

>It bounces off the barrier fruitlessly once again

>This time however, you note how the whole barrier lights up, highlighted by the remaining smoke

>You can just about make out the dimensions of it

>You have an idea

>The Wizard telepathically pushes Lucy out onto his apartment balcony, with the cupid's back hitting the outer railing

>"Nice toys. Now it's my turn."

>Lucy's eyes widen as she sees the white energy beginning to glow in the wizard's open palm

>Okay it's go time

>You hold your revolver at the ready, and then sprint right towards the Wizard

>He hears you coming, and turns around to stop you with further telekinesis

>You're almost frozen in place just a foot or two away from him

>He looks quite smug

>"You want it first, huh? Well don't worry, I've got the time."

>With all your strength, you push your gun hand up into position

"I'd say...it just... ran out..."

>*BANG*

>A Demon Silver bullet shoots straight up through his chin, making the wizard suddenly stumble and grasp at his face in shock

>This frees you from the psychic hold

>You don't miss a beat, stepping forward and raising the gun straight to his forehead

>Your hand is a foot away, well within his barrier

>Your guess that it wouldn't stop projectiles within its own bubble was right

>*BANG*

>This time, the wizard's eyes go into the back of his head, and he falls over, unconscious

>Phew

>That was your last bullet

>Oh shit wait Lucy

>You feel your heartrate quicken as you turn to her, holding out your hand

"You alright?"

>She looks up at you with some surprise, and smirks

<"You know, when I told you to improvise a way to win, I was mostly just shit-talking..."

>She grabs your wrist, and pulls herself back up, the smirk turning into a more genuine smile

<"You're more reliable than I gave you credit for."

>You smile back

"Yeah, well, I still need to work on the approach, I guess..."

>You let go of Lucy's arm and start to turn around

"We should probably arrow this guy and bring him to the car. I bet he's got some girl who's been waiting a while for h-"

<"He can wait."

>You realize Lucy isn't letting go of your arm

>You blink, and turn back to her

>She flutters up a little, bringing her face right up to yours

<"You saved me today, and I think my hero deserves a reward~"

>The cupid wraps her free arm around your head and pulls you in for a deep kiss as you stumble backwards into the apartment...

-----------

>You sit up swiftly in your makeshift bed

>WOAH

>That was a lot more vivid than the last one

>Man you really need to find some time to rub one out, otherwise dream-Lucy may well become as much of a danger to you as actual Lucy

>Oh shit wait, actual Lucy!

>You lay back down onto the bed

>That coulda been bad

>If the bedsprings and frame hadn't been so high, you might've put yourself into headshot range from the window

>You pull out your phone

>9:00

>A bit later than you'd hoped

>You look at the door of the hotel room

>The chair is still securely wedged in there

>Doesn't look like anyone's tried to force it yet, which is good

>Who knows how long that'll last

>You need to work fast, while staying in your current location

>You get to work with the bedsheets you removed from the mattress last night, winding them into rope and securing them to one another with square knots

>With that done, you secure one end to the bedpost

>Good ol' Boy Scout lessons

>Just as you tied off the lashing, you hear a loud *THUMP*

>As expected, it's coming from the door

>Looks like your stay at Nayuta's place has come to an end

>You should have a couple minutes before the door can be broken down

>Nayuta makes these things sturdy

>That should give you just enough time

>You throw your brown trenchcoat into the air

>Almost immediately, you hear a crash and the sound of glass breaking

>A split second later, the trenchcoat is now pinned against the opposite wall of the room by a golden arrow

>And the follow-up should be... NOW

>You sit up over the bed and fire off three rounds at the windows of the room, seeing the winged form of Lucy flying through the opening she just made

>You didn't have time to aim well, so Lucy managed to evade your barrage, and fly straight into cover, behind the dresser of the room

>You take the moment to hop over to the other side of the bed, next to the windows

>As you do so, you toss your new pair of clothes out into the streets below

>Hopefully those don't blow away

>With that done, you train your gun on the dresser

>Lucy is the first to speak

<"I should've guessed you'd throw a decoy."

"You know, we really need to talk about the problem you seem to have with windows lately."

>Lucy ignores your banter for the moment, eyeing your reflection in the mirror near the dresser

>She seems to be looking you up and down

>Oh right, you're still in an undershirt and jeans

<"Didn't have time to change, huh?"

>You shrug

"Guess I overslept."

<"Works for me, because you're not getting a wink once I stick you."

"My my, somebody's impatient. Can't you just wait, say, five more days?"

>Lucy sighs

<"You know I can't do that, Anon. Especially not for you."

"...I do intend to come back afterwards."

<"That's not why I need to stop you."

>You raise an eyebrow

>So it's not impatience

>Maybe she's really just that devoted to the law?

>You open your mouth to speak, but suddenly the pounding on your door turns to creaking, and then to the sound of wood snapping

>A coal-skinned & furred paw breaks through the door, and begins fumbling around for the knob

>You turn back towards the mirror

"Well, I'd love to find out why it is then, but that's my cue to leave."

>You quickly turn around and grab the bedsheet-rope

>Lucy leans out from behind the dresser and takes aim

<"I'll tell you all about it if you'd just hold still."

>You figured she'd try and take a shot

>Which is why you kept your gun-hand free

>You shoot another round at the Cupid, forcing her to take cover once more

>And with that you hop out the window, bedsheet wrapped securely around your arm

>You feel yourself go into freefall for a second, but the sensation is then stopped by the hard tug of the rope

>You stick your legs out as you swing into the wall of the building

>Wow, this actually worked

>You look down

>Your hat and trenchcoat are still there on the ground

>Sweet

>Now you just need to work your way down

>And relatively fast

>You carefully rappel down the building

>You're only two stories up, so it doesn't take long to get close to the ground

>Which is good, because it should only take a few moments for lucy to reach the window as well

>You aim at the window

>Only one bullet left in the cylinder

>Gotta make it count

>As soon as she peeks out and tries to take a shot, you need to take yours

>You had expected to see a beret'd head poke out

>What you see instead is a pink & white blur shoot out into the sky and straight down at you

>Right, she can fly

>Lucy flies down at breakneck speed, golden arrow in hand, held in front of her like a couched lance

>Okay, you can dodge

>Just tense your legs...

>As Lucy is about to make contact, you push off of the wall, only narrowly missing the arrow

>Phew

>You can see the strategy in what she's doing

>Shooting you in the normal fashion would likely make you lose your grip on the rope, so she's going into melee in order to ensure she can immediately catch you

>On a certain level, you've limited the methods of approach she can use, which is sort of a good thing

>Wait, how much room did she have between you and the ground?

>You look down

>Lucy is still shooting down at the ground, only a little slower than half a second ago

>Your heart sinks into your chest

>Oh no

>Suddenly, her white angelic wings flare out, slowing her form to a dead stop, blowing small objects on the ground away with a light gust

>Phew

>You breath a sigh of relief

>It's cut short when she turns her head back up in your direction, eyes steely with determination

>The same wings flap as one, propelling her upwards with the same speed she had falling, perhaps even faster

>She's aiming for where you're going to be when you swing back to the wall

>There's no way to change your position, she's almost got you dead to rights

>Unless you do something really risky

>Which of course you will

>You're not ready to give up yet

>You let your grip on the rope loosen, and begin to fall again

>Lucy's eyes widen as she watches you begin to plummet

>Having not counted on both of you moving vertically, she shoots past you into the sky

>Once this happens, you tighten your grip once more

>AH AH FUCK RUGBURN

>You grit your teeth to withstand the pain, but you do eventually come to a stop

>Only a couple feet above the ground too

>Once your feet contact the wall again, you push off and let go of the rope for good, turning it into a roll, directed towards your clothes

>Lucy meanwhile whips around in the air, taking aim at your position on the ground

>You only barely manage to dodge an arrow as you reach your clothes, and scoop them off the ground

>With that done, you begin dashing towards the nearest alleyway you can see

>Lucy's probably taking aim

>And you won't be able to dodge while in a dead sprint

>Your best bet is to fire at her again

>This shot needs to be well-placed, you only have one left in the cylinder

>Reloading will take time you won't have while being chased by a determined cupid

>You at least need to nail her somewhere that will give you time to make some distance

>You're almost at the alley

>She's probably about to fire

>Let's go

>You tuck into another roll, twisting your body sideways

>You come to rest on your back, both hands on your gun as you aim to the sky

>Oh jesus she's closer than you thought, only a dozen feet away

>And with an arrow pointed straight at your face

>Fuck it, no time to get fancy, center-of-mass

>You fire, and in almost the same instant Lucy lets her arrow slip

>Luckily, that instant was all it took for your bullet to hit her square in the chest, right between her boobs

>The arrow whizzes forward

>You hear a slight whoosh as it just barely slips past your right ear

>Your eyes stay wide for a second as your heart beats like a machine gun

>Holy shit that was close

>You take a moment to feel around your right ear with your hand, in a bit of disbelief that you didn't actually get clipped by that

>Phew

>Lucy doubles over at the pleasant numbness coursing through her midsection

>You shakily stand back up

>You should probably get away, now that she's subdued

"...I've gotta go. See you tomorrow, most likely."

>You move to turn around

<"You really think... you can manage this sort of thing... for five more days?"

>Lucy sounds like she's using all her remaining energy to speak

>You stop turning

"...I don't know."

>A short laugh escapes her mouth

<"Of course you don't. You're not thinking any of this through... even if you succeed, it'll just cause you pain..."

>Lucy manages to uncurl her torso, and push herself up onto her hands and knees, though they wobble with the effort

>She looks up at you

>You stagger backwards a couple steps when her eyes, filled with a fire you've almost never seen in her, lock with your own

>Her teeth are clenched as she holds herself up

<"But I won't let that happen... I'm going to save you, Anon."

>The earnestness with which she declared that, and the determination in her voice, seemed to touch something

>You feel yourself blush

>You avert your eyes nervously, and turn around once again

"I...see you later."

>You start sprinting down the alleyway as fast as you can, to try and shake off what you saw in those

>As you run, Lucy's lips turn into the barest of smiles, and she replies inaudibly

<"Yeah... see you..."

>And with that, the cupid's arms give out, and she collapses

----------

>You ran through the alleys for some time after that

>Lucy was probably unconscious, but you needed to get some distance all the same

>It also helped to clear your head over her words

>Eventually you mentally focus enough to pick at some of them

>Not the part about saving you, that was... you don't wanna think about that right now, too distracting

>So you focus on the part before it

>'It'll just cause you pain'? What the hell is she talking about?

>You're just shooting for wizard powers, what's the harm in that?

>Well I mean, it's illegal, sure, but you're not trying to hurt anybody with it

>You decide that you've gotten far enough away, and begin getting to work

>First you reload your gun, can't get far in this part of town with an empty chamber

>Does she know something that you don't?

>You got a pretty comprehensive education on wizards during training, have to know your quarry after all

>The material you got on the transformation process of a wizard mainly dealt with how to weather it when it happens in your vicinity. You don't know much about how it feels, but they probably would've mentioned if it hurts, right?

>You pull your arms through the sleeves of your new trenchcoat

>Well, enough guys go through it that if it was painful, you probably should've heard as much from one of your marks by now

>You would ask Lucy about it, but that's not exactly an option at the moment

>You place your black hat upon your head

>There might be a way for you to figure out what she was talking about, but that's gonna be later in the week

>For now you need to find a way to make it that long

-----------

>You wander down the street, keeping the brim of your hat low to conceal your face

>It's somehow still raining

>There was a lull during the morning, but now it's back to a healthy drizzle

>Rain is starting to really get on your nerves

>You refocus on the more important matter at hand: finding a place to stay for the night

>Nayuta's is no longer an option

>You do have backup plans, precisely two

>Okay, two and a half

>But one of them is something you still need to do prep work for, and the half is basically your last resort, so that just about narrows things down

>However, you're gonna have to wait until nightfall to get to it, so until then it's time to find ways to occupy your time

>And you have formed an idea on how to do that

>You haven't been wandering blindly

>This street is just about the center of the PLD's entertainment neighborhood

>Movie theaters, opera houses, and all sorts of other recreational businesses line the streets in this part of town

>And most importantly, there are arcades

>You now stand in front of one such establishment, adorned in lights

>You can see inside from here, the big shutter doors they use are wide open, revealing a veritable ocean of cabinets

>This'll be a good way to spend the afternoon

>It lets you sate your vidya fix for the first time since last week

>It shouldn't have many inhabitants on account of the time of day

>And best of all, it gives you an excuse to get out of the fucking rain for a while

>Certainly worth a small pile of quarters

-----------

>To your dismay, it appeared that much of the arcade's contents consisted of games meant for couples

>Lots of DDR machines, outfitted to work even for girls with inhuman lower bodies

>Fortune telling machines to tell people how good of a match they are

>Lots of co-op shooters, which to be fair don't HAVE to be for couples

>You managed to find something nice in the back though

>Glowing like a gift from the gods, a shiny pristine cabinet for Titanium Tritonia X

>Holy shit, now that's a blast from the past

>You used to play the fuck out of this when you were a kid

>Now here is a worthy recipient for your tokens

>Lets see how rusty you've gotten after all these years...

-----------

>Not too rusty at all it turns out

>You died a few times, but you only had to insert more tokens like three times

>A lot of it was muscle memory, you'd played these levels a ridiculous amount of times when you were younger

>The silly order army goons and their ridiculous-looking doomsday machines all fell before your Demon Silver HMG

>The last of those was done, and you've just knocked their bitchy paladin leader out of her seat and her armor, leaving her stuck in bloomers to her comedic embarrassment

>As the final score tally starts playing, you feel a sense of pride well up

>Still got it

>Hmm, should you put your initials in? It might be a clue for Lucy if she finds her way over here later...

>Better just put DIC instead

>You now have the new high score to boot

>Suck it, WAN

<"Nobody's beaten my high score before, nice job geezer."

>Oh hell

>You turn around to see a very annoyed hellhound in front of you

>She doesn't seem particularly happy to have had her score usurped

>You look to either side, and see that she is flanked by a Red Oni and Minotaur

>Fuuuuuuck

>Based on their various leather jackets, you would guess that they're some local punks

>You try to be modest, maybe it'll avoid a conflict

>Like 10% chance maybe

"Just trying to shake some rust off. It's not that much higher, hope you're not mad."

>The hellhound, who appears to be the leader of this little gang, waves her hand and over-exaggerates as she blows off your insinuation

<"Oh pfft, of course not. Like I would get mad over some old man trying to relive his arcade glory days."

>Your eyes narrow almost imperceptibly as her toadies snicker

>"Old Man"? For fuck's sake you're still only 29

>Fuckin teenagers

>Easy Anon

>Don't let her provoke you, that's what she wants

>You adopt an apathetic expression

"Whatever you say, kid. Go ahead and top it, I probably won't be back here anytime soon."

>You turn to go leave, only for the hellhound to grab your arm

>Welp, guess this is happening

>You look back at the hellhound and try to fake a surprised look on your face

>She's got a real devious look on her face

<"Oh no, I don't think you'll be getting off that easy. Lonely men like you know what they're asking for when they come over to this part of town~"

>You slowly reach for your holster with your other hand

>It's not your dominant hand, so this shot might be a tad shaky

>Good thing it'll be point blank

>The Oni and Minotaur move to block your way out of the aisle

"Believe it or not, I really was just here to play some video games."

>A look of confusion comes upon the hellhound's face, before being replace by fury as she snarls

<"DON'T you play stupid with me! Now come along quietly, and I MIGHT be gen-"

>*BANG*

>You pull the trigger, sending a demon silver bullet right through the arm keeping you restrained

>It goes limp and the hellhound staggers back in shock, before glaring daggers at you

<"Nnnnngh-Oh you're gonna pay for that! Get him girls!"

>This is going to suck

----------

>So an Oni and a Minotaur are charging you from both ends of the aisle

>You need to displace one of them

>Thinking quickly, you put another couple rounds into the still-reeling hellhound

>She's stunned momentarily, giving you the time you need to grab her arm and shove her towards the Oni

>The tall red yokai snaps out of her charge as her leader's form comes stumbling into her, stopping to grab the hellhound and attempt to steady her

>You don't waste any time running by, plugging the Oni in the side as you do

>The good news is all the girls are now only on one side of you

>The bad news is that it's the side that leads out of the arcade

>This is gonna be tricky

>All of these girls are of species that are pretty resilient to damage

>And that includes spirit energy damage, like what your demon silver rounds do

>The hellhound leader is already getting back on her feet after taking three rounds

>She's clearly a little winded, but still more than able to threaten you

>By your estimate, each of these girls would be able to take a full cylinder's worth of bullets on their own, unlike Lucy, who usually goes down in 2 or 3

>You don't have the time or supplies to waste 18 rounds, you've already gone through 4 just trying not to get jumped

>You reload your cylinder as you muse on how to get out of this

>Suddenly you remember something

>Time might actually be on your side here

>If you stall the trio long enough, Lucy's claim should become evident

>To the hellhound at least, you're not sure if they need to have a good sense of smell or not

>Let's see if you can talk again

"I told you I was just here to play video games."

>The Minotaur leans down and mumbles to the hellhound

<"I think he really wasn't intending to get raped today, Martha."

>The hellhound barks angrily at her compatriot

<"Yeah no shit! And I think I know why..."

>She turns to address you, looking significantly less amused

<"I got a good whiff when you grabbed me. You're already taken, aren't you?"

>You relax a little

>Thank christ, maybe you can sort this out after all

"I would've mentioned it before, but I don't think you would have listened."

<"Not my fault. If you wanted other girls to leave you alone, you'd have spent enough time with whoever claimed you to smell more like her."

>You sigh and pinch the bridge of your nose

"Look, now that raping me isn't on the table, can we just call it a draw and split?"

>The hellhound's eyes narrow

<"I don't think so, asshole."

>Oh now YOU'RE the asshole

"And why is that?"

>The hellhound crosses her arms

<"Simple: You still came to this part of town alone, despite knowing a girl's got you claimed. You clearly ain't treating her right, so you need to be taught a lesson."

>You snort

"What, are you gonna knock me out and deliver me to her on a silver platter?"

>A veil of smugness returns to the hellhound

<"Eh, ropes'll do well enough."

"Honestly, it sounds like you're just still pissed about getting shot in the arm."

<"OKAY SMARTASS, LET'S SEE HOW MANY WISECRACKS YOU CAN MAKE BOUND AND GAGGED!"

>Well shit

>Now it looks like you're gonna have to waste all this ammo after all

>You might be able to save some if you get enough shots to slow them down instead of straight-up incapacitating them

>But time is of the essence now

>You don't know how close Lucy might be to your current location, but it's a good bet that somebody heard the earlier gunshots, so it won't be long before she gets here either way

>The hellhound angrily rushes at you

>Suddenly another option pops into your head

>You recall from your training that there is one part of the body that is a bigger weak spot to a demon silver bullet than the head or heart

>You're not supposed to aim for it unless you're in a truly desperate situation

>But then again, you're not technically a cop anymore

>Time seems to slow down as you raise your pistol towards the charging hellhound, who seems ready to take on anything you can throw at her

>However you see a glint of confusion in her eye as you stop raising the gun, keeping it level with her waist

>*BANGBANGBANGBANG*

>You fire four bullets in quick succession directly into her crotch

>The fiery wolf-girl freezes like she just got turned to stone, still looking in your direction, but not really looking at you anymore

>She then collapses to the ground, like a sack of potatoes, going cross-eyed as she does so

>You look at her on the ground, starting to drool as waves of pleasure assault her brain like a tidal wave

>Huh

>So that's what crotch shots do

>Jesus, it's like somebody electro-stimmed her brain

>It's actually kinda hard to watch

>So what would that have done to a male targe-NEVERMIND LETS BLOCK THAT LITTLE MENTAL PICTURE OUT

"It didn't have to be like this. I just wanted to play video games in peace."

>You turn your attention to the stunned Minotaur and Oni

"Are you guys actually gonna try and keep this up? Because I would really rather not have to do that again."

>The two mamono look from you to their convulsing leader, and back again

>The Red Oni speaks up

<"...No, I think we're good. We were really just following Martha's lead. See ya, I guess."

>She then kneels down to pick up the unconscious hellhound, before turning around with the minotaur to exit the arcade

>You watch them leave, and then promptly lean onto one of the cabinets as you breathe a sigh of relief

>Phew, that was pretty lucky

>...

>Shit, wait

>You still need to am-scray before Lucy gets to the scene

>And find some dinner while you're at it

-----------

>After a covert retreat from the arcade, you found your way over to the market section of the PLD again for some food

>Nothing fancy, just a nice Reuben sandwich

>You did your best to keep your eyes open without looking too shifty

>The restaurant is more or less on the opposite side of town from where your little firefight at the arcade, which should occupy Lucy's attention for a little while

>That said you were still a little paranoid that she would get back on your trail quicker than you expected, so you ate fast

>That sandwich was cheap, lucky for you

>You've still got plenty of coins in your pockets. Probably enough to keep you going for the rest of the week at least.

>Granted, that does depend on you finding more places to stay

>Which is why you're now resorting to one of your backup plans

>It's a bit risky, if you're being honest

>But it's less risky than the other ideas for now, so there's not much you can do about that

>With that in mind, you have returned to the residential parts of the district, and are now staring up at yet another brightly-lit building, standing out against the night sky

>'Honey-moon suites'

>Yup, that's the sort of lazy pun you would expect for a love hotel

>It's most likely bee-themed somehow, or at least staffed by them

>Oh well, Honeybees are normally pretty nice anyhow

>Taking a deep breath, you walk in

>Opening the door, you see...actually a pretty cozy looking hotel lobby

>As you expected, there's a cheerful-looking honeybee receptionist at the desk, whose eyes lock onto you as you walk in

>You can tell she's doing the mental calculations every receptionist does at a place like this

>See, what you're doing isn't that novel of a concept: going to a love hotel and not actually intending to get laid there

>Plenty of cheapskates or hapless tourists try the same thing, and it hardly ever goes well

>While normal man/mamono couples going to a love hotel are simply given a room and allowed to carry out their business, a single, unclaimed man arriving causes the staff to go on alert to make sure he doesn't leave the establishment that way

>They can pull out all the stops to make sure this goal is met: trap-based mamono waiting in your room, aphrodisiac refreshments, and even sending one of the single staff members to offer "Complimentary (mandatory) Bed Service"

>The receptionist is already trying to assess where you stand and what protocols she'll have to pull for you

>The only way to really get past them is to bullshit

>And you've gotten pretty good at that

>You put up a friendly smile as you approach the desk, while the receptionist greets you cheerfully

<"Hello, and welcome to Honey-Moon suites! How can I help you today?"

"I'd like to reserve a room for two, please."

>You see the honeybee raise her eyebrow ever so slightly, but she rolls with it nonetheless

<"Absolutely sir, just let me check in the system and see what rooms we have available..."

>She proceeds to sit down and begin tapping at a keyboard

>No doubt also putting the other staff on standby in case you're trying to pull one over on them

>After a moment, she begins making small talk

<"So a room for two, huh? Where's the other person, if you don't mind me asking?"

>Well that was awfully direct

>You don't show any reaction, continuing to smile politely

"She should be here in a couple hours, I think. Might take her a little bit?"

<"You're not sure when she'll be here?"

>Her eyes are narrowing

>You start scratching the back of your head, trying to look a little embarrassed

"Well, she's supposed to find her way here on her own, I set up a bit of a scavenger hunt for her to follow, you know? With clues and everything."

>The receptionist perks up

<"Oh yeah, we have people use us as an endpoint for that sorta thing every now and again. Usually it's for an anniversary or birthday though. So what's the occasion?"

>She's trying to find holes in your story

>And you probably still smell mostly unclaimed to her right now

>This next part's gonna be critical

>You up the embarrassment, averting your eyes and looking at the ground, and make sure to mumble a little

"It's, uh... It's gonna be our first time..."

>That seems to work, the Bee-girl's expression looks slightly softened, and she replies with a degree of excitement

<"Aww, that's sweet! Virgin couples are always my favorite patrons! Have you made her wait very long?"

>You now look off to the side

"Longer than I should've, in hindsight..."

>A slight blush comes on

>It's not exactly intentional, but you embrace it for the authenticity it adds

>You look back at the receptionist's face now

"I guess I figured I'd make it something special, after making her wait that long, if that makes any sense."

>She looks really happy

>She seems to be buying it

>What you've told her should correlate well with the way you apparently smell to mamono, assuming you've timed it well enough for Lucy's claim to be evident by now

<"Oh hun, your first time's always gonna be special, no matter what you do. But I'm sure she'll appreciate the flair."

>You exhale, as though letting out some tension

"I sure hope so, otherwise I'm gonna look pretty silly, huh?"

>She waves you off

<"You'll do fine, Sir. I've got you all set up for a room, now that'll be $20."

"Right."

>You pull about $30 worth of coins to put on the desk

>A hefty chunk of your funds, but a good night's sleep is worth the price

"Go ahead and keep the change. Hope it makes up for the short notice."

<"Oh, well thank you!"

>The Honeybee then produces two keycards for you

<"You'll be in room 24"

>You nod, somewhat gratified that you've managed to make it through

>"Much obliged."

>You start to walk towards the staircase when the receptionist calls after you

<"By the way sir, what's your date's name? Just so I know when she gets here."

>Ah shit, you almost forgot

>You turn around and widen your eyes in surprise

"Oh right! I can't believe I almost forgot! Her name's Lucille, sorry I almost missed that!"

<"You're fine, you're fine."

>With that, you turn around and resume your journey to the stairs

>Damn, you were hoping you wouldn't have to take that risk. Hopefully it throws them off enough, in the event that she DOES manage to find her way here.

>The name you gave obviously isn't Lucy's actual full name, but it's close enough that the receptionist could credit it to a slip of the tongue or a mispronunciation

>A more obviously fake name would put the whole hotel on alert if Lucy got here and raised a fuss

>Hopefully it doesn't end up having to matter

>Now let's see the new bedroom...

---------

>Well, it's a pretty nice hotel room, all things considered

>They even had flowers set up and everything, how nice

>The windows are small and high up, would barely fit a person through them

>Which is good, Lucy seems to have a bit of a problem with those lately, assuming she manages to track you here in the morning

>And you didn't even find too many traps in the room

>Just an opportunistic djinn-of-the-jar on the buffet that you immediately called out

>She was apparently the room service, just thought she'd give it a shot

>Anyhow you quickly settled in and got some things done

>Ate some more food, did the last bit of research you'll need to for your next plan, and even managed to rub one out in the bathroom (after ensuring it was free of any other unwelcome guests)

>After that you decided to get some sleep

>Although instead you found yourself staring at the ceiling in contemplation

>You don't imagine this strategy will give you many nights of refuge, maybe no more than one

>You're running out of cards to play, and quicker than you had intended to

>There's one more real option, but it's a bit of a gamble

>Best case scenario, you get a place to stay for the rest of the week, somewhere Lucy would never be able to follow you to

>Worst case scenario, you could fucking die

>...Man Lucy's right you should never play blackjack

>Speaking of that Cupid, you can't help but ruminate on what she said to you this morning

>Does she know something about wizardry that you don't?

>Back in training, the cupids did get a little more info on wizards than the guys did

>It was mainly Erosian teachings and whatnot, but maybe there was something critical in there

>Maybe you could get her to elaborate on it the next time you see her? Say that if her answer is satisfying enough you might surrender?

>No, that wouldn't feel right

>You don't want to string her along with promises you're not sure you can keep

>Just keep things simple: You want to be a wizard, and if she wants to stop you she'll have to catch you first

>You start to feel a little annoyed with your lack of ability to fall asleep, so you flip the TV in the hotel room on

>An enthusiastic Shirohebi appears on the screen, with a green-screen geographical map in the background

>Looks like the default channel here is the weather

<"...And our town Ryu Kiyoko will be remaining on honeymoon with her new husband for another few days, so keep your galoshes on, because it's gonna keep pouring!"

>Well that explains a lot

<"Oh, and get ready to lock your doors this weekend boys, because you're in for a Full Moon this Saturday night and Sunday morning!"

>Right on schedule

>Lulled by the weather report, you start to find yourself drifting...

---------

>A heavy *clink* fills the living room of your apartment as two cider bottles tap one another

>You pull your arm back from the toast and take a swig, while your cupid partner does the same in the seat next to yours

>After 6 years of partnership, this has practically become a tradition for the two of you: whenever a case is closed, you get together at one of your apartments to drink and watch a silly movie

>Although you haven't yet started the latter

>Lucy finally removes the bottle from her lips

<"Man, I swear these wizards are getting easier every year. Either that or we're getting better."

>You raise an eyebrow and smirk at her

"You say that, but didn't you use lead this time around?"

>The pink-haired angelic girl glares at you in turn

<"He literally had a ball of lightning in his hand Anon, don't act like I wasn't justified."

>She then turns her nose upwards snootily as she takes another sip

<"...And besides, it's not like it made him feel any lonelier than he actually already was. Might as well neutralize him as quickly as possible."

>You chuckle

"Well aren't you just the angel of mercy?"

>Taking another sip of your own, you place your drink down to head over to the movie shelf

"Okay, what should we watch this time? I hear 'Weekend at Banshee's' is pretty good."

>Suddenly Lucy's eyes bug out a little as she seems to recall something

<"Actually, before you do that, I just remembered..."

>She then flies over to the kitchen

>What's she getting you?

>Lucy soon hovers back, with a cake in tow, the numbers 28 topping it in candle form

>Everything clicks in your head at the sight, and you facepalm yourself

"Holy shit, I almost forgot it was my birthday!"

>A small smile comes onto Lucy's face

<"Well aren't you lucky I didn't?"

"Don't tell me you made this yourself?"

>She blows a raspberry at you

<"Pfff, in the middle of a case? Please Anon, it's storebought."

"Wooooooooow, storebought, I feel so appreciated."

<"Oh, shut it and make a wish already."

----------

>30 Minutes and 2 slices of cake (each) later, your both sprawled out in your respective seats, watching whichever rom-com it was you picked tonight

>You usually try to aim for the "comedy" side of things, but the mamono film industry almost inevitably puts at least SOME romance into every movie

>You're not paying particular attention to the plot, however

>The pleasant surprise of cake from Lucy had cooled off, and now you were ruminating

>You're 28 now

>You hadn't really thought about it for a while

>But those candles are just kinda hanging around in the back of your memory

>You can't help but wonder if Lucy's thinking about it too

<"...So, only two more years, huh?"

>You almost jump at her suddenly talking, but manage to keep your reaction to surprised blinking

"...Yeah, it feels...Well, I don't really know."

>You take another sip

>This is your second bottle of the night, and it's almost finished

"I guess I just never figured it would go by so fast."

>Lucy stares at you for a moment

>She can definitely read you right now, even with the the alcohol

<"Hey, two years is a long time. Don't act like you have to retire tomorrow, sourpuss."

>You swish your drink around in your mouth thoughtfully, before swallowing

"...Yeah. I guess you're right. If I just take it day by day it won't feel as daunting. I mean, that's over 700 days, imagine all the things I could do in that time."

>Suppose that comforts you a little

>You turn to Lucy with a slight smile

"Thanks"

>Lucy blushes a little, but then her brow furrows and she crosses her arms

<"You don't have to be THAT cheerful about it."

>Oh, right

>That 700+ days is also how long she has to wait

>Well now you feel like a bit of an ass

"Hey, you know that's not what I-"

>She punches your arm, smiling again

<"Yeah yeah, I know that it isn't, chill out. I'm just teasing you. Now let's get back into the movie, hmm?"

>You shrug, and get back to your drink

----------

>Wow, you and Lucy have probably just about run through the contents of your fridge drink-wise

>In a case of excellent timing, the movie is just about over

>You don't remember much about the plot, something about a douchebag dying, getting rezzed as a undead incubus by a banshee, and his two subordinates having to drag his semi-conscious body around through various antics for some reason, while avoiding the angry banshee upset that they took her new husband.

>Your head's feeling kinda fuzzy anyways

>It's probably hitting Lucy worse, smaller body and all that

>Eh, but she's got some meat on her to help with that

>Mainly on those boobs

>Man those things are nice...

<"You know, I've been thinkin..."

>You almost jolt out of your seat, nearly returning to sobriety

>JESUS, that was close

>You shake your head and turn to Lucy, who looks pretty woozy herself

"What about?"

<"You ever, you know, wanna 'get it over with'?"

"O-oh... by 'it', you mean-"

<"Two years really isn't that long after all."

>The cupid abruptly rises from her seat

>You see where this is going, and it's sending your brain into panic mode

"That's, uh, not what you said an hour ago?"

>She takes a step forward

<"That was then. This is now. So how about it?"

>Wow, she is being incredibly forward

>It's actually pretty attractive, which is really not helping you at the moment

>You force those thoughts into the back of your mind as you back into your seat while Lucy continues to approach, trying not to look at her boobs

"What about our jobs?"

>Lucy puts her hands on the armrests of your seat, leaning over you

<"That's what our pensions are for. The department prepares for this sort of thing."

>Well she's got you there. You wouldn't be losing anything by just saying 'fuck it' here and now, aside from the job itself.

>But that's the problem...

>Already blushing, you avert your eyes

"...But I like this job. Taking down Wizards. Being an Arrow Runner...I don't wanna stop that just yet."

>Lucy stares at you for a second, then closes her eyes, exhaling

<"...I know. And that's okay."

>She walks back to her seat, before crossing her arms

<"But by Eros, I hate that virginity is required to operate as an Arrow Runner."

>You relax a bit, with that little crisis averted

"Well there's no helping that, wizards can sense that sort of thing at a glance. We'd never be able to function in infiltration roles with popped cherries. Not without magic or technology more advanced than R&D can yet make."

>That obviously won't cheer Lucy up, but it's all you can really say

<"I know that, but man it's frustrating sometimes."

>You grunt in agreement

"Well that's why so many don't actually make it to their late 20s."

>Lucy turns her nose up and puts on a air of bravado

<"And that's why YOU should count yourself lucky you have such a PATIENT and UNDERSTANDING partner."

>You smile, snorting a little

"I'm thankful every day for it."

<"Yeah, well you should be. Because I swear, when it comes time for you to retire..."

"Hey, when it hits that time, I'll have no complaints."

<"Good, because if you get any funny ideas about trying to become a wizard yourself, I'm not letting you sleep for a week."

>You chuckle, and then stand up

"I'll be sure not to do that, then. Back in a sec, gotta take a whizz."

>While in the bathroom, you mull that thought over

>Come to think of it, you are pretty close to wizardry now, huh?

>The Arrow Runner lets a lot of men get pretty close, all under government supervision

>On the surface it sounds pretty risky

>But well, that's partly what Lucy's for

>An Arrow Runner is always his Cupid's last target, that's something you had long accepted, she wouldn't let you try anything funny

>Wonder how close she'd let you get though...

>You shake your head in front of the bathroom mirror

>Nah, there's no point in wondering about that sort of thing

>You dry your hands and return to the living room, stretching

>Hey, why is Lucy standing up?

"Uh, you good, Luce?"

<"I had another thought"

>Your eyes flick to her drink

>It's empty

>You reply cautiously

"Yeah?"

<"How do I know you're not just stringin' me along so you can become a wizard?"

>Your eyes widen

"I'm not that good of a planner"

<"My ass. As much thought as you put into catching our marks, I wouldn't put it past you."

>Her wings are twitching, like she's about to fly

>It suddenly occurs to you that you're standing between her and the open doorway to your bedroom

"I am not trying that, I swear."

<"Sorry Anon, but there's really no way for me to be sure."

"Lucy wai-"

>In an instant she plunges toward you like a speeding bullet

-----------

>You were awoken by the obnoxious ringing of a phone, sitting up groggily

>Well fuck, you can axe "not having masturbated" as the cause of these dreams

>There isn't much light coming in through the window, must still be before dawn

>You quickly identify the bedside phone as the source of the ringing

>Fuckin hell, what could room service be calling for at a time like this?

>You pick up the phone

"Hello?"

<"Room 24?"

"Yeah?"

<"Hello again sir, this is the front desk calling to let you know your other guest has arrived!"

>Oh

>Oh no

>You find yourself staring at the door as you hold the phone to your ear

"Oh, that's great! I was worried she wouldn't be able to follow my trail, thank you very much!"

>You put the phone down before the receptionist can reply

>You don't have much time

>In fact, there's no way you'll have time to exit the room without Lucy encountering you

>The door (which you also stuck a chair into as a matter of habit) in your way is your main source of protection for the time being

>However it's also your only escape route

>Fuck, wish you could've gotten a better room

>In hindsight, those small, high windows are kind of a detriment

>While they force Lucy to enter through the front door, they also deprive you of an exit

>Guess you were just so tired of Lucy shooting through them that you didn't care to notice earlier

>You hurriedly get your belongings together

>So Lucy's finally coming after you in the night, huh?

>That's a real shame, you were hoping for another good night's sleep

>You check to make sure your revolver is fully loaded when you hear a knock on the door

>Just as little time as you expected

>You step towards the door, then into the bathroom doorway next to it, leaning out

>Her arrows can't pierce through this thick of wood, but you're still a little paranoid

>These rooms are pretty well soundproofed, so they keep an intercom in each one for people to talk without opening the doors

>You reach for the button on yours to flip it on

>Might as well talk, seems like you're both gonna be here for a second

"...I appreciate that you knocked this time. And the forewarning."

<"Well it's only courteous. You went to all the trouble of buying us a night at a love hotel, after all."

>Her reply was delivered dryly, but with a slight tone of teasing

>You ignore it for the time being

"I'm surprised you decided to track me down at this time of night."

<"Well I decided I've let you catch enough sleep without me."

>That's not good. An attrition strategy wearing down on your stamina could be very effective.

"Did the receptionist give you a key?"

<"No. I figured it wouldn't make too much of a difference, you probably have this thing barricaded."

>She's right on that count

>You don't respond though

>Lucy continues

<"She still hasn't gotten wise to your little trick, actually. When I realized what you did, I figured I'd keep her in the dark."

"And why is that?"

<"Because you can just open this door and make everything you told her true."

>You exhale through your nose

>The teasing is gone from Lucy's voice

<"You can just let me in and forget about this wizardry business. Don't you want me?"

>Oh c'mon, that's not fair

>You pinch your nose

"Of course I do. But I can wait four more days for that. Why does that have to be a problem?"

<"Because I don't want to see you become a wizard."

"Why? You know, beyond the legal issues. What other stake do you have in stopping me?"

>Lucy pauses for a moment

<"...You're close enough to the threshold that I don't think it would matter if I told you. Not like this."

>Seriously?

"Well... I guess we're at an impasse, then."

>You stand up, and move in front of the door

>You have an idea on how to get out

"I guess this door is awfully poetic in that sense."

<"Except for one thing."

"And what is that?"

<"The more time you kill in general, the closer you get to wizardry. The more time I kill at this door, the closer my reinforcements get to coming here to break it down."

>You grimace

>That was clearly meant to put pressure on you

>But the fact of the matter is you DO need to get out of here, whether that promise of backup is an empty threat or not

>You do have an idea, but it's a bit of a stretch

>You just need an opening

>You crouch down, slowly moving the chair out of the way of the door as you continue to talk

"Oh? And you don't think I can take a whole squad? When I've got this whole chokepoint?"

>Lucy sounds unimpressed

<"False bravado won't get you anywhe-"

>You wrench the door open before Lucy can finish

>As expected, she was still standing in front of the door, arrow nocked and ready

>Which is why you need to move like the wind

>You spring forward out of your crouch, towards the bottom end of her bow as you keep yourself low

>Everything feels like it's moving in slow motion as Lucy adjusts her aim downwards to try and clip your foot or leg

>Just as she is about to fire, your hand finds purchase on the bow

>You pull towards yourself, forcing Lucy's aim back up as the golden arrow is loosed, flying into the hotel room

>Eyes widening in indigation, Lucy hurriedly reaches back to grab an arrow from her quiver

>You can't give her any time

>You push up at her, reaching up as you do so

>First one hand, then the other, closes around each of her wrists

>You momentum carries you up as you push the cupid into the wall opposite your door

>Mamono are often physically stronger than most men, but Cupids sit towards the lower end of that range, and you're a pretty fit guy

>So you can at least achieve a momentary advantage like this, along with the psychological effect helping you out

>Granted, that one's a double edged sword, as your body is immediately starting to realize it is being pushed against Lucy's in a tight space

>But the blush on the Cupid's face as she takes notice of this as well tells you that it's working, even if said blush likely mirrors your own

>Man she smells nice right now

>And you don't think you've ever felt her boobs press up against you like this

>Wait no stop that brain

>You blink away the impulses, in spite of your growing boner

>You don't have any time to waste with those kinds of thoughts

<"Hello? Is everything alright up there?"

>You both blink, and you turn your head towards the stairwell, where the Honeybee receptionist from earlier is approaching the two of you

>Oh hey

>That's actually perfect

>You remove one hand from Lucy's wrist to pull an arrow from her quiver, and promptly chuck it at the hapless honeybee

>She's taken by such surprise that she doesn't even dodge, and as poor as your aim was, it still manages to nail her in the leg

>Not exactly a winning score in darts, but it works

>Lucy's eyes widen as you abruptly let go of her and run down the hall in the opposite direction

>She looks from you to the honeybee and back again several times, her face still pink from your entanglement

>She almost pulls her bow out to aim at you, before giving a frustrated shout and turning around to go tend to the honeybee

>You know you have some time when you hear her yell after you

<"THAT WAS A DIRTY TRICK!"

>Hey, all's fair in love and war

---------

>You fled to the other side of the district to get some distance on Lucy

>By the time you felt comfortable enough, the sun was rising once again

>At this point, you were able to settle into a more contemplative mindset as well

>You're probably not gonna be able to try the love hotel stunt again

>More than likely, Lucy is probably gonna get you blacklisted from all the ones in town for the duration of her manhunt

>You still have four more days to get through, barely even halfway to the end of the week

>And yet now you only have one and a half options for surviving

>This isn't looking good at all

>Everything pretty much depends on what happens today

>At least you have that plan worked out, thanks to the papers Nayuta let you study

>This is going to be one hell of a gamble

---------

>You were back in one of the residential sections of the PLD, in the early afternoon

>Pretty nondescript, similar to where you encountered the devil bugs

>You're even in another alleyway

>But hidden somewhere among these tenements is the key to your last real plan, in the last place anyone would expect it

>You begin feeling along the walls of the alley

>It has to be here somewhere

>Maybe there's a switch, a brick that will slide in if you press it

>You slowly and deliberately make your way down the path

>Everything you could find pointed to this block. It had to be here.

>It needs to, otherwise your quest for wizardry is already over

>If you can't find it, then you might as well just go find Lucy and turn yourself i-

>Wait

>Your hand just felt something strange

>Or rather, it didn't feel anything

>You never took it off the bricks

>You turn your head to the hand

>Slowly, you move it backwards

>At a certain point, you feel nothing but air

>Your right hand appears to be inside of the brick in front of you

>Is that magic? An illusion spell of some sort?

>All the other bricks around it feel real

>Experimentally, you move your hand further into the illusion

>You feel something again, some sort of force, causing resistance to your hand

>Abruptly, you hear a grinding noise

>It sounds like it's right next to you

>But nothing is visibly moving

>You pull your hand back apprehensively

>If something IS moving behind the veil, you'd prefer not to lose a hand to it

>After about 30 seconds, the noises stop

>Okay, let's see what may have changed

>You put your hand back to the fake brick

>It still goes through, as before

>But when you move your hand around, suddenly all the surrounding bricks appear similarly illusory

>They must have been moved by that mechanism, all while still being disguised

>This is really impressive, to keep an illusion spell like this up on what you assume to be a permanent basis should take a lot of skill

>Now let's see

>You edge your foot to the bricks in front of it

>Goes through, just like your hand

>There's a whole doorway

>Carefully, you step through the fake brick wall

>You find yourself in darkness

>You reach for your phone, and turn it's flashlight on

>Unfortunately, the light reveals almost nothing about the room around you, except its (rather small) dimensions

>Just as you are about to approach a wall, a small white circle appears in front of you

>You tense

>He knows you're here

>You dodge to the side as the circle extends across the room, becoming a beam

>It hums as it remains, hanging in the air

>You get back onto your feet

"Show yourself, wizard."

>There is no response at first

>And then suddenly, you hear a voice coming from what seems like every direction at once

>"And who are you, to make such a demand?"

>Yup, just as hammy as you expected

>Experienced wizards often tend to a dramatic flair

>You're going to have to play along with it

>You form a response in your head, and then look into the beam

"A virgin on the cusp of wizardhood, seeking knowledge and aid."

>The voice does not return

>Instead, you hear a new noise, hydraulic

>It feels as though you are descending

>Are you in an elevator?

>You note that the beam remains in place, even as you move downwards

>After about a minute, the noise stops

>The wall in front of you falls away, revealing a hall

>"Enter."

>You're not in any real place to argue

>Carefully moving around the beam, you step into the hallway

>At its end seems to be a cavernous room, with a large screen

>Holy shit, how does an unsanctioned wizard afford this? Alchemy, maybe?

>You come before the screen, and stare into it

>A crystal ball appears, and the voice returns, causing the simulated ball to flash in time with it

>"You appear to be what you claim, in at least the first respect. Your virginity is evident."

"Will you grant my requests?"

>"That shall depend on the nature of each. We shall start with the first: Knowledge."

>Works for you. Depending on what you learn, this may help you in your negotiations later

>You nod

>"Ask, and I shall answer."

>You think of where to start

"...Tell me about the relation between wizards and the lunar cycle."

>The voice takes a moment to respond

"That is elementary, though I do not begrudge you for lack of knowledge in it. Magical energy waxes and wanes in power with the moon, both spirit and demonic. In the case of the latter, this is what causes mamono to gain in strength and lust when the moon is full. Awakened wizards can utilize the same effect to strengthen our abilities, and perform our strongest spells. The illusion you discovered earlier is one example of such a spell. Our feminine counterparts in the sabbath utilize it in a similar manner, sex-crazed as they are."

>Much of what he has told you is stuff you already know from your training, but it helps to reconfirm

>Plus, given that you're so close to a full moon already, it reminds you of how dangerous this wizard currently is

>The voice sounded bored, like you were making him recite knowledge from a textbook

>"I do not believe this to be the end of your questioning. Continue."

>Time for the more important question, one that you had exhausted all the material you could find on in the past year

"What happens when a wizard awakens on the night of a full moon?"

>The voice is quiet for an entire minute

>You stand there patiently

>When it returns, the voice is... softer

>"That is...not something I have heard about for a long time."

"But you have heard of it?"

>"Yes, however sparingly. The effect of the moons's influence upon the mass of accumulated mana in an awakening wizard is, from what I understand, exponential. Their power is said to be unmatched, giving them a level of raw magical ability that ordinary wizards must work for years to achieve."

>'is said'?

"I presume you have never met one of these wizards?"

>"That is correct, and for good reason. Our kind is rare, and always has been. For a man to reach the age of thirty years with intact virginity is rare enough already. For one to do so at the time of a full moon is a once-in-a-generation event. Perhaps multiple generations now, ever since the tightening of the state's noose around what few of us remain. They are individuals whom I never imagined to meet in my lifetime."

>There is a pause

>"...How close are you to your birthday, young man?"

>'Young man'

>Okay fine, he's a wizard, and by the sound of his voice a pretty damn old one. So you may actually be a young man compared to him

"It is this coming Sunday."

>A short laugh resounds around the room

>"Well then, I suppose that my imagination was lacking."

>The wizard continues

>"Is there anything else you wish to ask, before we move on to your second request?"

>You look down in contemplation

>Your thoughts return to what Lucy said yesterday morning

"When you awaken as a wizard...what does it feel like? Is there pain?"

>The wizard is quick to answer

>"There is no pain, per se. What I remember is...a feeling of remarkable emptiness."

>Well that doesn't sound good

>"I found it quite haunting for a moment, but it was followed by an onrush of power that escapes description. It is as though you could fly into the heavens and back, with nothing that can stop you. Compared to that rush, the emptiness is but a soft echo in my mind."

>You hope he's right

"Alright. I am ready to move on to the matter of aid."

>You hear the voice clear its throat

>"Yes. I assume you wish for lodging?"

>You figured that was obvious

>You nod anyways

>"I see, and I imagine you wish to leverage the significance of your upcoming awakening to guarantee that."

>It almost sounds as though he's smirking while he talks

>"Tell me, do you intend to stay longer for apprenticeship and training in the usage of your power?"

>This might be a bit of a sticking point

>Unfortunately you can't afford to get caught lying by this guy

"...No, I do not."

>You say nothing more, but the wizard is already putting together your reasons why

>When he responds, he sounds unimpressed

>"A shame. Such momentous potential, and yet you wish to merely attain the bare minimum of power and be done with it."

>Yeah, yeah, whatever old man

>He sighs

>"Alas, I cannot allow the opportunity to observe this to go to waste. Very well, I shall grant your request."

>You breath a sigh of relief

>Thank god, it seems like this might actually work out

"Thank you, I deeply appreciate thi-"

>"Yes yes, I am assisting you because it helps my own studies. Now remain here for the time being. I must prepare a room for you. There is a seat to your right."

>You turn your head

>As if on cue, a light in the room illuminates a large couch

>Huh

>Well alright, you've already got a place to crash

>You begin to walk towards the couch

>The voice suddenly resounds once more

>"Actually, I have a question of my own for you."

>You freeze in your tracks

"Alright, shoot."

>"You found my lair. How?"

>You keep your best poker face on

"A year of research."

>"Hmmph. Very well. When I am finished, we shall meet in person."

>You hope he doesn't pry any further, as you continue to the couch

>Not sure if he can tell you're a renegade Arrow Runner or not

>But what he doesn't know won't hurt him

>You lay down on the sofa

>Holy shit this thing is actually pretty comfy

>You feel a little tired

>Not surprising, Lucy woke you up pretty damn early, and you never found another place to crash

>This is actually going pretty well now

>You actually might make it

>You begin to fall asleep quite comfortably

---------

>For once you actually didn't remember what you dreamed about

>Whatever it was, it didn't spook you awake, that's for sure

>You stretch your arms out contentedly, and open your eyes

>You look around

>You're still in the hallway the wizard met with you in

>Barebones, obviously, but you're not gonna complain about the couch, best sleep you've gotten in a while

>Not sure how long you've been asleep

>A glance down at your phone says it's mid-afternoon

>Damn, you slept like a rock

>At least you seem to have woken up at an appropriate time: you can hear footsteps approaching

>A dim light begins to brighten more of the room

>You see a robed figure with what appears to be a wide-brimmed hat

>You stifle a giggle

>Seriously?

>Holy shit man, you know they're called wizards but he didn't have to wear the whole getup for that

>Guess this guy can get away with it, hidden as he is

>He even seems to have a long, grey beard

>Wow this guy might actually be old

>You turn and get off of the couch

"Is my room ready yet?"

>The wizard stands still as a statue

>"There is a problem."

>Uh oh

"And what is that?"

>"I know what you are, Arrow Runner. Hunter of your own kind."

>A chill runs down your spine

>You keep your composure outwardly

>You figured he might realize this eventually

>There is a chance you could still talk this out, however

"That's right. Though I can no longer officially call myself that. Did my mana give it away?"

>"It provided one clue. Your clear investigative skills and other aspects filled in the rest."

"I wasn't lying before. I found this place by my own independent research. And I really am pursuing wizardry, this is no farce to expose you."

>The wizard begins pacing back and forth

>"Hmmph. I'm sure it isn't. I can tell you are indeed close to awakening."

"So why should this jeopardize our agreement? Does your personal issue with Arrow Runners take precedence over the research opportunities?"

>The wizard takes an annoyed tone, not directly answering you at first

>"Your kind are traitors to virgins everywhere. Government dogs using their own purity to deceive and entrap their more ambitious brethren."

>You've heard this kind of shit many a time before

>Plenty of wizards spew a similar vitriol when they realize your identity, calling you names like "Quisling", "Fake Virgin", etc.

>At this point, it all washes off of you like water off a raincoat

>So you stand there and wait for him to keep ranting

>To your surprise, however, he cuts the lecture short

>"However, as much as it pains me to say it, no. I would never sacrifice an opportunity like observing your awakening for the sake of my own disdain for your profession..."

>Then what's the problem?

>You are about to speak up to ask this question when the wizard continues talking

>"...The crux of the matter is that I do not believe said awakening will be able to occur, regardless of my own assistance."

>What?

>You furrow your brow

"Explain."

>The wizard turns his head, and you swear you can see his eyes glaring through the dim light

>"You never imagined yourself to be the only Arrow Runner who has gotten this close, did you?"

>Of course not, somebody had to have tried this before you did, rogue ARs aren't unheard of in the slightest

"I figured not."

>"And have you ever heard of one succeeding in attaining wizardhood?"

"I was under the impression that wouldn't be the sort of thing to be allowed in the headlines."

>The old man nods, and resumes pacing

>"A fair assumption. However, it may surprise you to know that there is no cover-up in this regard."

>You begin staring in front of you as you consider his words

"So you're saying..."

>"No Arrow Runner has ever attained wizardry, not in all the records our best sages keep. Now why do you think that might be?"

>You don't answer, still trying to take this in

>The wizard doesn't mind, as he begins to get excited, practically giving a lecture

>"It is not a problem of ability. Arrow Runners are well trained and skilled. Theoretically, evading mamono until wizardhood should be an easy task for them. And while the government takes a great many precautions to prepare for rogues, these too can be subverted. You yourself are a testament to that, having come this far."

>You begin to stare directly at the wizard

>He, in turn, leans towards you, just enough for the brighter light above the couch to show his face

>It looks as old as he sounds, the man truly is ancient

>"No, the root cause is that ''you're all too soft''"

>You squint at him

"How so?"

>He leans back, and paces once again

>"Unlike a true wizard aspirant, you associate freely with the opposite sex. You Arrow Runners have felt love, and a great deal of it, albeit at a distance far enough to keep your virginity intact and your auras relatively clear."

>"You stand next to the fire of romance, just far enough away not to get burned. But when you stay there too long, you begin to warm either way."

"So what? Is that supposed to delegitimize my virginity?"

>He laughs harshly

>"What it delegitimizes is your will to pursue the power of magic. Those who have felt that much love for so long can't just throw it away for the sake of power. When the time comes to truly decide which is more important, they always pick love. That is why your kind always fails."

>He turns to you once more

>"Mark my words: When push comes to shove, and it always does eventually, you WILL pick your partner."

>You feel a pang of indignation, followed by immediate guilt

>His claim rests upon the assumption of your own will being weaker than your feelings for Lucy

>The way he's framed it, arguing in defense of the former would come at the expense of the latter

>But attachment and wizardry don't have to be mutually exclusive. Government wizards handle both all the time, right?

>You shake your head a little

>You can tell looking at this old coot that he won't be persuaded by debate

>And you can't let his words get to you right now

>Time to focus on the matter at hand

"So what you're saying is you won't help me?"

>"In case I wasn't clear, no. You are a lost cause, like the rest of your misbegotten kind."

"Then I am going to leave, and prove you wrong."

>You say that, but don't move a muscle

>Neither does he

>You both already know what happens next

>And yet, the geezer clears his throat, preparing to make a show of the whole thing anyways

>"Unfortunately, I cannot permit that."

"And why not?"

>Your fingers tense, ready to grab your revolver at a moment's notice

>If he's going to drag this out, you need to be as ready as you can

>"It is a simple deduction really. I know you will be captured and deflowered before the week is out. Unfortunately, you have learned all on your lonesome where I have been hiding. I cannot imagine you'll be able to keep that a secret. So as things stand, if I were to simply let you go, my residence would be exposed. And that just will not do. I have come too far to be dragged down by your incompetence."

>Boy, he's getting extra arrogant now

>The air begins to crackle around him

"Well that's a shame."

>What happens next occurs within the span of a second or two

>You grab your pistol while the wizard raises his own hand, electricity whipping around his fingers

>His lightning will move faster than your bullets, and he can probably tank them better than you can too

>If you wait to have a shot you'll get roasted

>So once you have your gun halfway raised, still aiming at the ground between the two of you, you pull the trigger

>In a confined space like this basement, the flash and bang of the gun is deafening to both of you

>The wizard winces, his spell still growing in his hand

>The delay gives you enough time to jump out of the way as he unleashes the bolt

>A thunderous flash resounds (and deafens you again) as a line is scorched into the concrete walls

>Well if you didn't have tinnitus already, you probably do now

>The wizard is still rubbing his eyes from the flash

>Now's your chance

>Hopefully he doesn't have a gay force field like these ones usually do

>You swiftly aim at his chest and fire

>Dead on, it passes right through his heart

>...which stops him, for a moment

>Wow, you really thought he would've put a shield up

>The look on his face is one of surprise, as he feels the part of his chest where he was struck

>And then he starts to laugh

>Your own heart starts to sink

>It begins to dawn on you that he doesn't need a shield

>"HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! So that's what that feels like! Sorry whelp, but you'll need a lot more than that. Try 100 rounds, it might tucker me out a little!"

>Okay this is bad. Reeeeeaaally fucking bad.

>You didn't think it was even possible to have that much mana backed up

>Emergency measure time, aim for the dick

>You really don't want to see a wizard cream his cloak but you have no other options

>You aim for the crotch and pull the trigger again

>This time the bullet does actually ricochet off

>"Ah, ah, ah. I know my weak spots, Arrow Runner."

>FUCK

>You try to roll onto your feet, but find yourself being lifted into the air

>"And you? Well you ARE a weak spot. To yourself and me. But not for long..."

>You feel a pressure around your windpipe

>You can hardly move your arms

>Everything is starting to get blurry

>In desperation, you push your hand as hard as you can into a certain direction, and squeeze your trigger finger

>*BANG*

>Everything suddenly goes dark

>You hear glass breaking

>Thank god, you must've hit the screen

>You feel the grip on you release, followed by a falling sensation

>You hit the ground with your ass, gasping for air

>Only for a moment though

>You don't have any time to breathe, you need to get out NOW

>That altercation tells you everything you need to know: You CANNOT take this guy out. Not right now, with what you have on you.

>Powerful enough wizards can obviously tank DS bullets, but you've never seen one literally laugh them off

>In the back of your head, you acknowledge that you might have a chance against him if Lucy was here

>Golden and Lead arrows ignore the amount of mana a target has, they affect everyone equally

>However, as things stand right now, the only thing you can do right now is run

>So you do, getting back onto your feet

>Spike of pain shoots through your hand as you push yourself up

>Feels like you just touched broken glass

>Shattering the screen must've sent the stuff all over the floor

>You'll patch yourself up later

>The wizard's voice bellows in the darkness

>"YOU LITTLE CURMUDGEON! THAT THING TOOK ME MONTHS TO SET UP!"

>You pump your legs into the direction that you think is the hallway you entered from

>A red light from behind you confirms your guess, illuminating the elevator door

>You instinctively duck out of the way before the light gets too close

>You look up to see a fucking laser beaming down the hall, right into the elevator

>The wizard is not happy in the slightest anymore

>"RRRRRAAAAGH! NOW THAT'S PROBABLY FUCKED TOO!"

>As darkness returns to the room, you spring towards the elevator

>Did that blast bust the door open?

>You tuck your shoulder in as you think you're about to collide with it

>Only to fall through into the cab, a sickening creak echoing as you do so

>Shit, that beam did a number on this

>It wouldn't get you out quickly enough anyway

>But there is one possibility

>You reach up in the darkness until you feel the exit panel on the ceiling

>Wrenching it out of the way, you climb up into the elevator shaft

>You flick the light of your phone on to let you get a handle on your surroundings

>Good, the cable's still intact for the most part

>As you grab it, what seems to be a small cloud appears from within the cab

>Upon closer viewing, it appears to be composed of more glass shards, accompanied by some sort of floating golden eye

>Your eyes widen as you notice all the shards suddenly point directly at you

>"EVEN IF YOU ESCAPE, YOU WILL NEVER ACHIEVE WIZARDRY."

>We'll just see about that

>You aim down at where the cable connects with the elevator, and shoot it

>The cable snaps, and you are pulled upwards as the elevator falls

>The cloud of glass shards follows you just as quickly, only just missing your feet

>You see a light at the top of the elevator shaft

>Looks to be the entrance from before

>As you ascend, you begin to swing on the rope to create some momentum

>Better hope you timed this right, you don't have another shot

>Just before reaching the opening, you swing back towards it

>You let go just in time to be carried out the doorway and into the alley

>The glass shards all collide with the top of the elevator shaft in a loud clatter

>Well at least you're in the light again

>And the wizard likely isn't going to come out of his cave just to keep trying to kill you, that would attract too much attention

>You look at your hand

>There's a decent gash on it from the glass

>In fact, a lot of your jacket has rips on it now, as well

>Fuck

>You need to go find a place to go take a breather after that

>But for the time being, the wall of the alleyway feels pretty good

>As you sink down against the wall and process the last 10 minutes, it begins to hit you what just happened

>That was your ace in the hole

>Your last real plan for how to hide and survive in the PLD

>You've just about run out of plays

>You didn't die, which is good

>But what are you going to do now?

>You notice the sky appears darker than you'd expect for the time of day

>Looks like a storm's coming...

----------

>The rest of your evening wasn't much better

>You bought some gauze for your hand, and managed to find a bite to eat

>Took longer than you expected, though

>Mainly because there's actual police patrols heading through the PLD once again

>Has to be Lucy's doing

>She knows regular patrols wouldn't ordinarily be enough to catch a trained arrow runner

>More than enough to flush you out though, and that's what she wants

>In any case, you managed to make your way to a relatively vacant alley

>Lucy doesn't seem to be on your tail quite yet

>However there is a more pressing problem at the moment

>You've finally run out of places to stay in the PLD

>No more love hotels, the word has likely spread to watch for you

>Nayuta's not an option for obvious reasons

>And the wizard would just try to kill you

>You suppose you could hide in another abandoned building or something

>But you'd really rather not chance another run-in with devil bugs or some shit

>You don't have many options

>All you have left is maybe trying to get out of the district

>But that's where your own plan has screwed you over

>As it stands, Lucy's probably got an even tighter blockade around the district than before, so long-term escape would be tough

>You really thought you'd be able to drag this out for longer

>It's kind of what your plan hinged upon actually

>Instead you still have about half a week left

>And holy shit, you are tired

>The last couple days of having to wake up early and constant physical activity are really starting to wear you out

>Your legs feel like jelly, and your gun has never felt so heavy

>Your thoughts are starting to gravitate more and more around finding somewhere to sleep

>Somewhere dry at least

>... hey wait, this alley is pretty dry

>Lots of walkways above covering it from the rain

>Maybe you could sleep here...

>You shake your head a little

>No, that would be tantamount to pelvic suicide out here! What the fuck are you thinking?!

>But where the hell else can you even go?

>You slide down to a sitting position on the side of the alley, hand on your forehead

>You planned so many contingencies over the past year, but you ran through them all so fast!

>What the fuck do you do now?

>You sit there for a while, feeling your eyelids grow ever heavier

>...Alright, fuck it

>You don't have time to be frustrated with yourself, you need to get what sleep you can

>Doesn't matter how long it is

>At least, that's what the part of your brain desperate for rest is telling you

>You scoot over next to some boxes and hunch over

>Hopefully you can stay a light enough sleeper to ward off any opportunistic mamono that come your way

>At least you're not getting rained on...

---------

>You stand over the pasty man lying on the ground before you

>He's currently blindfolded and clutching at his chest from where the golden arrow had struck

>Not your hardest capture, if you're gonna be honest

>Aspiring wizards are always easier to take out than fully-realized ones, that's why you and Lucy try to catch them before they can even cross that threshold

>This guy was pretty good at hiding his identity online, you were coordinating with cyber-crimes for about a week trying to get a hold of where his actual address was

>But when it came time to actually take him out he was kind of a pushover

>Lucy's already flown off to go find his soulmate, said there was a gremlin he'd been trolling on some forums

>You meanwhile have to bring this fella back to the station for processing

>Lucy'll get the girl over there too, then you can just take his blindfold off and let the golden arrow do all the work

>You crouch down

"Alright buddy, let's go get you hitched."

>"...Not fair... so close..."

>You stare dryly

>They usually do bemoan how close they were to awakening, provided there isn't a mamono on hand to distract them more directly

>You usually don't engage with them, but you feel a little charitable today

"Don't beat yourself up about it, I do this all the time."

>"...No... was gonna be better...moon..."

>Huh

>Delusions of grandeur compared to other wizards isn't exactly new to you, but his mention of the moon caught you off guard

>Suddenly his arm moves, reaching out

>Your eyes widen and your hand whips down to your holster as you watch him

>The arm then loses strength, and the man pulls it back into his chest

>You relax a little

>Man, you give Lucy shit for using lead arrows sometimes, but they do prevent these kinds of sudden movements

>You step over and pull out a pair of handcuffs to put on the man

>Might as well play it safe and not give him any opportunity to try something stupid

>Once the cuffs click closed, it occurs to you that he might have been reaching for something specific

>Could be related to that moon comment?

>Turning your head in the direction his arm extended yields the entryway to this guy's kitchen

>Maybe what he wanted was in there?

>You hadn't really gotten the chance to explore this place yet anyhow

>Feels a little irrelevant since this is basically a done deal, but it never hurts to be thorough

>You walk into the rather small kitchen

>Let's see

>Empty beer bottles on the counter, unwashed dishes, the usual bachelor ensemble

>You look at the fridge, to find a calendar stuck on the front of it with a magnet

>Huh, looks like he has a date circled

>Doesn't take much to deduce that it's his birthday on there

>Damn, he was less than a month out?

>You walk up to the fridge to study the calendar

>Getting closer causes you to notice some little markings on the date boxes

>They appear to show the phases of the moon

>Oh, it's one of those calendars that show you when the new and full moons are

>Never seen one this in-depth, though

>It seems to list the proper moon phase for every day of the month

>Well that just seems unnecessary, a waning crescent's not gonna stop waning until the moon is new

>Who would they even make that sort of detail for? Well besides this guy apparently

>Seems to mesh with his mention of the moon before at least

>Actually, wait a minute...

>You look back at his circled birthday

>'Full Moon'

>So he was gonna turn on a full moon?

>And he must've thought that was gonna make him stronger?

>Well that's a new one alright

>If there's any truth to it, you're glad you took him out now

>You shrug, and turn to head back to your target's unconscious form

>Until you stop

>A thought worms its way into your mind

>Does that calendar go into next year?

>Not that it matters, Lucy'll take you before anything can happen anyway...

>...So then, logically there's no harm in checking, right?

>You walk back and flip forward on the calendar

>Funnily enough, it does actually go to the next year

>You flip to April

>20th... waxing gibbous... 21st...

>Well son of a bitch

>You let the pages drop down as you remove your hand from the calendar

>Now you're really curious about what was gonna happen with this guy

>Not that you intend to do anything stupid, of course

>Just to know, you know?

>...Although, asking him about that at the station would be very suspicious

>Actually, asking anyone you associate with about this would be suspicious

>Shit

>You don't even know if it actually means anything

>Maybe you should just... think about this, after you get home

>You shake your head a bit and walk back to the living room, deciding to deal with it later

>Even so, that thought just won't leave the back of your mind

>Saying that it could be you

>As you return, the front door of the house swings open

>That thought quiets for a moment

>Though only because the Cupid aiming right at you is way more pressing

>Your first thought is to look at your target, in case she was aiming behind you

>Still laying on the ground

"You can stand down Lucy, I don't think he's getting back up anytime soon..."

>The tone of slight humor in your voice drains as you see that she hasn't moved

>You look at her eyes

>They're bloodshot, her pupils are pinpricks

>Oh god, what happened to her?

<"Stand down, wizard."

>What?

"Wizard? Lucy, what the hell ar-"

<"I SAID STAND DOWN!"

>You're not sure you've ever heard her like this outside of a combat operation

>And even then she usually keeps her cool

>An errant thought passes through your head

>She didn't see anything you did in the kitchen, did she?

>No, that isn't possible, how would she have seen it?

>And you're not even really committing to anything with that! It's just, in the back of your head is all

>You raise your hands, trying to calm her down

"Hey, easy, I'm not a wizard-"

>Her eyes widen

>The bowstring is loosed

>Your vision is filled with the arrow barreling straight for your face, aimed right between your eyes

>The last thing you notice before impact is the dull grey sheen of its leaden tip

-----------

>You jolt awake, kicking your legs out and falling onto your ass as you do so

>That... these dreams are getting worse

>As you regain your bearings, you become dimly aware of movement next to you

>Flashing into a firing position, you take aim...

>...At the terrified mousegirl staring at you with eyes the size of dinner plates

<"I-I was just curious and... and your pocket smelled good..."

>Your muscles immediately relax

>Great, now you feel like shit again

>You put your hand to your forehead, then dig into your pocket to grab one of your spare packets of beef jerky

>You toss it in the mousegirl's direction

"Just...just go, kid."

>She scrambles to catch it out of the air, and then scampers off

>Fucking hell, how long did you even sleep?

>You check your phone

>Only 4 hours, if that

>Water begins to drip onto your head

>Great, guess this alley wasn't quite as covered as you'd hoped it would be

>That, or the rain is just that bad now

>You sit there for a moment, pondering whether you should try and get some more sleep

>Eh, nah

>You'll probably just get more flashback/nightmares at this point

>And without a secure place to sleep, Lucy or someone else might actually track you down if you stay in any one place too long

>Might as well get to work

>This is gonna be your last major card to play

>Everything after this, if it even works, will be blind improvisation on your part

>You pull out another piece of jerky, for yourself this time

>This is going to be a very important morning

-----------

>You trudge along with the rest of the crowd near the security checkpoint

>You've returned to Venom street

>Looks like it's the same two cops on duty as before, the Manticore and Girtablilu

>They seem far more attentive today, actively scanning the crowd, most likely for you

>And here you were hoping they'd be munching on donuts and slacking off, but that would be too easy

>Still, this is where you'll have to start

>You've formed the basics of a plan

>Obviously you can't just stroll through the checkpoint like this, they'd notice and you'd have a fight on your hands, which would more likely bring Lucy soaring in

>Which is why you'll need a distraction

>But first, one more check

>You reach into your pocket

>About 18 bullets left, along with the 6 in your cylinder

>4 cylinder's worth. You're not scraping the bottom of the barrel, but you'll have to make every shot count

>You then pull out your phone to check the time

>8:20 AM

>Not that you'd be able to tell that based on the sky of course, it's still as dark as night thanks to the storm

>So you've got an hour and 40 minutes then

>Better get to setting that distraction quick

>You start looking around for something or someone you could use

>Suddenly you see your opportunity

>A familiar tall, tan bouncer wades through the crowd

>It's the Amazon from Nayuta's

>Looks like she's on her way out of the district, probably heading home after finishing up the night shift

>She'll do nicely, long as you can find the right kind of person to work with her...

>Let's see... that hairdo looks about right...

>Alright, it's go time

>You head through the crowd, making a beeline towards the Amazon

>You fall in just behind her, then up your pace to walk into her, bumping her shoulder harshly as you do so

<"Hey, watch where you're going, assh...ole, wait a minute, you!"

>You lock eyes with the succubus offshoot, giving her a tired glare

>The Amazon's surprised expression turns to an aggressive grin

<"Well well well, looks like I'm gonna get a bonus from the boss lady once I take you in-"

>*BANG BANG BANG*

>She gives a stunned shout as she falls to one knee, having just taken three rounds in the other

>The crowd turns their heads to see what just happened

>You kept your gun low, and slipped it right back into your pocket after firing

>You also similarly slipped backwards into the edge of the crowd

>Those hits won't keep an amazon down for long

>Gonna piss her off though

>If you're lucky, just enough to not see what she's doing

>Right on cue, the man you were keeping track of is next to you

>Looks like a salaryman of some sort up close

>Well, sorry about this bud

>You grab the man's shoulders and shove him towards the now-rising Amazon

<"Alright you little shit... now you've gone and made yourself a pain in MY ASS!"

>She springs from her kneeling position into a forward tackle

>Which of course, takes her barreling right into the unfortunate salaryman

<"HA! TAKE THAT FUCK- Hey, oh god dammit."

>The guy's looking increasingly confused and distressed

>"W-what's going on? C-can you get off of me, please?"

>The Amazon studies his features as her face grows increasingly red

>You see her mouth something under her breath

<"...Oh fuck it, I'm off the clock anyway."

>"What?"

<"Sorry fella, but I just got shot and I'm all worked up, and you know what happens to single men in this part of town~"

>"Oh c'mon, I was here for a meeting, I sweAAAAOOOOOHH"

>Clothes begin to fly, entrancing the crowd and the nearby officers

>Well that worked pretty damn well, nice

>You melt through the crowd, away from the scene

>Gunshots and a public rape, that should do just fine

>You could probably slip through the checkpoint at this point

>But that would make it way too easy for Lucy to figure out where you left from

>You turn back into an alley instead

>No, you've got some more work to do

-----------

>A check on your phone reveals the time as being about 9:53

>Holy shit, you actually managed that in time

>You spent the last hour and a half causing chaos all over the PLD, specifically near its exits

>Shooting officers, inciting public rapes, sparking hellhound riots

>You're particularly surprised that you managed to get a full-on street brawl started over on Merse drive

>Lucky that a gang of hornets and a bunch of honeybees happened to be in the same spot

>You haven't just been causing chaos randomly of course, you have a plan

>You need to be able to escape in such a fashion that Lucy won't be immediately able to track you, thus you need to obscure which one you actually end up leaving through

>It won't take much deduction on Lucy's part to figure out that you're behind these incidents, which is good

>You need to get her focused on your pattern

>It's not too complicated of a pattern really

>You've been working roughly counterclockwise around the district

>Simple enough for someone running out of options, which is what you are really

>All the incidents should get the police scrambling to control the confusion, and if Lucy's got any say, to try and blockade whichever exit she thinks you'll be taking

>You know the department doesn't have the manpower to cover them all AND control the inner district, so Lucy's gonna have to pick & choose

>So it's just a matter of getting her to pick the wrong one

>The simplest choice would be to go for Venom street again, since it's had the most time for attention to be drawn away from it and towards the other exits

>Lucy might buy that, if she really thinks you're that desperate

>If she realizes that's a dupe though, leaving through the opposite side of town would be way too obvious

>Which is why instead, you've returned to Paladin's Way

>Ironically named, since it's basically an entire street of lingerie shops on the south-southeast end of town

>You hit this place earlier, causing a bunch of unrest by shooting at a nearby Danuki storebroker at JUST the right angle to make it seem like it came from the local Wight police officer

>The resulting riot over the officer's clear anti-Danukism appears to have moved out of the area already

>Wow, the place didn't even get particularly trashed

>Go figure, probably didn't wanna mess with their own neighborhood

>In any case, there's barely any crowds here, much less law enforcement

>And most importantly, there's a bullet train here

>This is it

>Your way out of the PLD

-----------

>You don't know what you're gonna do to survive for the next few days after escaping, but at the very least you'll have a little more time

>You walk down the street, hat tilted down to hide your face

>Nobody's really paying attention to you as you make your way towards the station

>Good, you're looking all clear so far

>Your eyes catch sight of your goal: the stairway leading up to the train platform

>Just a few blocks down the road

>Should only take a few minutes to walk over

>Gotta keep your pace measured, don't look too hurried

>You study the few people around you as you stroll by

>Despite all the effort you've put in to disguise your destination, a part of you is still paranoid that the half-baked idea wasn't enough, and that Lucy's on her way

>Or worse, that she's already here

>...You hope she's alright

>Maybe it's just that last dream talking, but you're starting to worry what you might putting her through with this

>She's never looked like she did in that dream, but maybe that's because she's keeping it inside

>You know that's one thing you both have in common

>But you've told her what you intend to do after this is over, she knows you'll come back to her

>You've said as much over the last few days

>And she's gotta know how you feel about her

>You couldn't really explicitly say it, because admitting it is always a slippery slope to the end of an Arrow Runner's career

>But she knows, right?

>Does she need to know that you l-

>You shake your head

>You're getting too wrapped up in this right now

>It's distracting you when you need to keep walking

>Fuckin hell, is this what the wizard was blathering about?

>You could see how it weighing on your mind might lead a rogue AR to lose focus

>Hell, it's happening to you

>Okay, get your focus back, then

>You'll come back to Lucy after all this is over, and everything will be okay

>In the meantime, you need to make sure the only way you think about her is with regards to how you can keep her from stopping you

>Deep breaths

>...Alright, you're good

>Now, Lucy doesn't seem to be here

>Nobody looks too suspicious

>Lots of people with heavy coats and umbrellas

>Gotta keep the rain out of your skivvies somehow

>Man, hopefully the rain isn't gonna be this bad in the rest of the city

>Wish you didn't have to worry about how many faces on the street were hidden by hats or umbrellas though, hypocritical as that may be

>Need to not look too hard, that would be too suspicious

>You scan the rooftops as well, knowing that she'd use the height advantage if she could

>You're about two blocks away

>Just gotta cross this intersection and then one mor-

>You clear the corner just before the intersection when a glint of light flashes in your peripheral vision

>Just a single point of luxurious gold

>You tense as time seems to slow down

>You turn your head just a little

>She's in a grey raincoat, to your left

>A golden tip pokes out subtly

>She's accounting for your speed

>You abruptly put your right foot on top of your left, and cause yourself to trip

>You let the momentum pull you forward and down as the arrow is loosed

>You put your hands out pre-emptively as gravity does the work of dodging for you

>You feel a pressure near your head

>A pang of fear flashes through your chest, dying down as you note that it isn't followed by anything else...

>...Besides a cold and wet sensation on your head as it is exposed to the rain

>Fuck, she got your hat

>You collide with the ground, transitioning into a sideways roll

>She's probably nocking another arrow as you roll onto your feet

>You whip out your pistol as you come back to a standing position

>When your vision comes back into focus, Lucy does indeed have another arrow ready, now not bothering with any subtle stance

>She doesn't say a word, but lets it fly, aimed right for your torso

>Not sure you can dodge this one

>Out of reflex, you pull your trigger

>...After the flash dies down, you note that you still haven't been hit

>Did Lucy miss?

>A glance down quickly answers that

>On the ground next to you lies a golden arrowhead, with a broken shaft next to it

>Woah, holy shit, did you just shoot the arrow?

>That was lucky as hell, damn

>You keep your gun trained on Lucy as she stares at the ground, equally incredulous

<"...Oh c'mon, that's bullshit."

>You shrug

"Maybe it's a sign that you should ease off for today?"

>Lucy's face is still hidden under her coat's hood, but you can feel her squint at you

<"Nice try, but no. I doubt you can make lightning strike twice."

>You sigh

"I was really hoping I had shaken you off my trail."

<"Oh please. I've been your partner for almost 8 years, I have a bit of an idea of how your head works."

"And yet I still made it this far."

<"That was when you still had a plan, wasn't it?"

>You suppress a grimace

>So she can tell, huh?

"I still have a few cards up my sleeve."

<"Not many. I can see those bags under your eyes, Anon. You're at the end of your rope."

>Well now you're feeling a little indignant, and a little self-conscious

>Just because she's right about you not really having a plan and being sleep-deprived, she thinks it's over?

>Lucy raises her head towards you, letting you see her eyes

>They're full of the same determination you saw when you escaped from Nayuta's

<"I won't let you keep doing this to yourself. I promised I would save you, Anon."

>You blink and glance away

>Still can't really handle that look

"I told you... I'll be fine, and I'll be back."

>The cupid shakes her head, and holds an arrow up, pointing it at you

<"You won't leave me again. This ends today."

>You furrow your brow, and regain your nerve

"Not yet."

>You fire, the air ringing out with three shots

>In a wink, Lucy is out of the way, your shots whizzing by where she had just been

>That was faster than usual

>You whirl around, ducking as you see another arrow flying at you

>Well if your hat wasn't already gone, it most certainly would be now

>You need to move

>Breaking into a dead sprint, you charge down the street

>Your brain is in full damage control now

>Lucy's here, so even if you win here, she'll know which way you took out of town

>You'll have to figure out what to do once you even get on the train now

>But first, you need to make it there

>Something tingles in the back of your head

>Another arrow's coming

>You lean back, just barely dodging the golden projectile as it buries itself into the brick next to you

>Fuck, is she faster, or are you slower?

>You fire towards the arrow's source to keep Lucy suppressed for a moment, then frantically reload as you continue running

>She's probably gonna rush into melee again

>A dark shape flies into your path as if on cue

>Lucy flairs her wings out, sending her coat flying off into the wind, before soaring at you full-tilt

>You finish reloading your cylinder just in time, and take a potshot

>Just one, you know this is bait

>In the back of your head, you remind yourself that you're down to 2 cylinder's worth now

>She jukes sideways, into the street, letting an arrow off as she veers out of the way

>You turn to the side, the arrow making a cut across your coat as it passes

>She's getting closer and closer to hitting you

>You need to end this

>Just a solid shot or two should do it

>You look ahead once more

>Half a block left

>Damn, you've been running faster than you thought

>Lucy grabs your attention again, as the cupid jets straight up into the air

>She's going...really high up

>If it were any higher, it would actually really hurt her accuracy

>But now she's got all visibility she needs

>You know she's about to take another shot

>Can you dodge it again?

>When she has that vantage point?

>You can't leave that to chance

>One shot here

>You see a bench ahead

>That's what you need

>As you approach the bench, you reach a hand out

>Lucy's probably taking aim

>You mantle over the armrest of the bench, and land your feet onto the bench itself, before pushing down with your legs as hard as you can

>You jump, turning as you do so, giving you a spin

>Lucy comes into view far above you as you take aim

>Both hands on your grip

>You pull the trigger, aiming for a wing

>Just enough to take out her mobility, like at the start of the week

>You dimly notice another arrow as you fire, aimed at your head

>In a panic, you raise your gun to block it, helped by the recoil from your shot

>You feel the revolver get knocked out of your hands

>You careen to the ground, having made your shot

>You try to turn so you can roll out of the fall, but that mainly results in your shoulder taking the brunt of the fall

>Oww

>You snap out of your daze quickly, and scramble for your gun, it having landed right beside you on the sidewalk

>A glance to the sky shows Lucy half-fluttering in the air, clearly having trouble staying afloat now

>Guess your aim was true

>You then turn back just as quickly and begin running for the stairway again, now only a couple dozen feet away

>Exhilaration and relief begin to fill your chest as you bound towards your getaway

>You might actually manage to do this

>You can get out of the PLD, then hopefully out of the city, and whether just a few more days

>Then you'll finally attain power hitherto unimaginable

>You feel almost a sort of mania creeping through your chest at the thought of it now

>Adrenaline and the endorphins of near success are making a potent cocktail in your brain

>You know that's what it is, but you don't really care

>You can do this

>You WILL do this

>The only person who could even come close to stopping you is currently being weighed down by a paralyzed wing

>With Lucy coming back to mind, you turn your head back one last time

>Even in your current triumphant state, you still wanna check and make sure she's alright

>You turn your head with the expectation of seeing Lucy continue to sink towards the ground with only one good wing

>What fills your vision instead puts all your prior feelings to a dead stop

>The Cupid plummets through the sky, neither wing flapping

>Lucy's body is still as she races headfirst towards the ground

>Even as far away as you are, you can see her lidded eyes

>Your mind races to explain what you're currently seeing

>You shot her, you know you did

>But you didn't actually have time to see where exactly your bullet landed in the moment

>You thought you hit a wing

>Did you actually hit her heart? Or worse, her head?

>That would knock her out cold if it hit right

>Maybe what you initially saw was her last moments of consciousness as the sensations from your bullet sent her to dreamland?

>Oh god she's really high up

>Oh Fuck

>FUCK

>NO

----------

>Time slows down

>For a moment it feels like the only thing you can see moving is her

>Every muscle of your body is tensed for movement

>You can feel your muscles flex involuntarily before you even know what you're doing

>You need to catch her

>And yet, just before your feet can get into motion, a tiny voice within the back of your head tells you to turn away

>You glance at the stairway once again, for but an instant

>You're basically at the entrance of it now

>The voice grows louder

>This street isn't deserted, there's others around here

>They're watching, you can see them

>And they can see her

>They can get her

>You would lose your chance

>Someone else could do it, you need to run

>On an analytical level you know all of this is true

>But the other voice in your head says to hell with all of that

>She doesn't have much time

>And what if you were wrong?

>You can't be certain anyone else would get there in time

>That's a gamble, and a bad one

>Sure, you've taken worse gambles, and they've paid off

>That's basically been this whole week so far

>But this is different

>This is Lucy

>You can't risk her

>She's too important

>Nothing else matters, you have to save her

>Something clicks in your head, freezing you again for a millisecond

>Oh god

>This is what the wizard meant, wasn't it?

>That when the chips were down, you'd choose her

>That thought alone holds you

>...

>...

>...But only for a breath

>Yes, this could be throwing everything away

>You'd be falling for the same pitfall that everyone else who has tread this path before you did

>That cycle wouldn't be broken

>But none of that matters

>Not when the woman you love needs you

----------

>In real time, your existential dilemma lasts all of about a quarter of a second

>To any onlookers, you nigh-instantly push off in the opposite direction of your prior trajectory, barreling through the street

>Your eyes are locked onto Lucy's descending form the entire time, avoiding collisions solely by your peripheral vision

>Are you gonna make it?

>You don't know if you can run faster than she can fall

>Fear grips your chest as you push yourself forward even harder

>You're almost there

>But she's almost at the ground

>Now

>You jump forward, stretching your arms out

>Lucy's shoulder hits your arm first, then the other, as the rest of her torso comes to rest as well

>You make sure to catch her waist in your other arm, clutching her as close as you can

>You twist your body around, putting yourself between Lucy and the ground

>Gravity finishes the job, and you wince in pain as your back hits the wet pavement

>It takes a moment for you to sit back up and tend to the unconscious Cupid in your arms

>Her eyes are still closed

>Her pink hair hangs, soaked by the rain

>Terror continues to grip your heart as you study her face

>Is she alright?

>Did you shield enough of her fall?

>Holding your breath, you lean an ear down to her face

>The steady sound of Lucy's breathing takes the weight of a lifetime off your shoulders

>You lean back and take some deep breaths

>She's okay, thank god

>Fuckin hell

>You blink a couple times, just staring at her face

>Damn rain's getting in your eyes

>Your heart skips a beat as Lucy's own eyes begin to flutter open

>You don't say anything as she looks at you

>A small smile comes onto her face

<"You caught me..."

>You struggle to form a response

"Well, yeah, you're... I need you."

>She weakly raises her left hand to your cheek

<"I know."

>Her hand feels so soft

>Hey wait, isn't Lucy a righty-

>*SHINK*

>A jolt passes through your body, followed by an inexorable feeling of warmth

>Everything's starts to spin as your head lowers down

>You see the shaft of an arrow sticking out of your chest

>Right out of your heart, actually

>Huh

>Well

>So that's it then

>You feel all the fight drain out of you

>Lucy sits up in your lap just as you begin to lean down into her, bringing the two of you into a sort of hug

>You rest your head on Lucy's shoulder, staring down the street at nothing, really

>You both sit there for a while

"...Nice trick. I thought I'd really hit you"

<"You did. Just not enough to put me that much out of commission."

>So exactly what you had aimed for

>You did everything right, she just psyched you out

>A grin works itself onto your face, despite yourself

>You begin focusing on the sensation coursing through your body

>You're not sure how you expected this to feel, but it's not too bad

>Guess you thought it would be more... extreme? Debilitating?

>You've seen Lucy use it on other virgins before, and they always went down quick afterwards

>But you just feel really, really tired and warm

>And she feels really nice

>You feel the need to keep holding her, like a man dying of thirst needs to drink

>Still, you're kinda surprised you can move this well

>Actually, that makes you curious

>You grab the arrow, and ease it out of your chest

>Feels kinda surreal, damn demon realm alloys

>You hold the arrow up so you can see it

>Gold

<"Surprised I didn't use lead?"

>Your mind flashes back to all your previous encounters with Lucy over the last few days

>Come to think of it, you don't even recall seeing her use lead once during this entire escapade

>All the arrows she shot at you with were gold

>You mutter out a reply

"Well it seems like a bit of a risk, leaving me able to move and all."

<"I guess I just thought you could still be saved. And I was right."

>The cupid cradles an arm around the back of your head

<"I saved you"

>You hear her voice start to waiver

>You don't say anything, but you tighten your hold around Lucy

>The two of you are gonna have a lot to talk about

>But first, that sleep deprivation is really starting to catch up to you

"Mind if I take a nap?"

>Lucy perks up for a moment, then makes a small snort

<"Take as long as you want, I'm not going anywhere."

>Your eyes begin to close

>Wait

>Almost forgot

>You turn your head for a moment, and gently kiss Lucy's cheek

>There we go, just felt right

>You hear Lucy sputter as you begin to fall asleep

<"Oh you... you jerk..."

-------------

>You don't remember dreaming much while you slept this time around

>You just remember feeling really happy and comfortable

>You know the arrow really didn't change much

>You've loved Lucy for a long time, even if you could never explicitly say it to yourself or her for professional reasons

>That love feels more a lot more prominent, for sure

>Perhaps it readjusted your priorities

>But then, you ran after her even without any arrow, so maybe it just solidified those priorities

>You even feel pretty at peace with failing at the whole wizardhood thing

>It would've been cool, but at least now you won't have to worry about the whole hassle you were gonna have to navigate afterwards

>You know one thing for sure, though

>You're gonna show Lucy how you feel when you wake up

-------------

>Your eyes crack open to an unfamiliar ceiling

>Did Lucy take you somewhere while you were asleep?

>Man, you must've slept really fuckin hard

>Speaking of that cupid, you feel a mass of warmth on your side

>Turning your head to the side, you see her sleeping soundly next to you, pink hair hanging in her face

>God, that's cute

>You just wanna hold her

>You feel a stirring down below

>You raise an arm to wrap it around Lucy, but suddenly you're stopped

>Feels like there's something around your hand

>Come to think of it, are your arms outstretched for a reason?

>You look at your wrist

>It appears to be handcuffed to the bedpost

>...Huh

>Well, that's a side to Lucy that you didn't expect

>I mean you can certainly abide it, but it's still a bit of a surprise

>Guess you have even more to talk about than you thought

>The noise from you shifting around causes Lucy to wake up, stretching her arms as she sits up

>Well now she's just showing off her freedom of movement

>And her bare chest

>Wew

>That stirring is getting more noticeable

>You semi-involuntarily try to move your arms again as you drink in her naked form

>Woah, that was sudden

>Wonder if that's a lingering effect of the arrow?

>Man this isn't fair

"Good... morning? What time is it?"

>Lucy grabs her phone to check it

<"10:30, it's morning. Sleep well?"

>You shake the chains on the handcuffs

"No thanks to these. I get that I'm an actual fugitive, but do we really need to roleplay it?"

>Lucy's eyes widen, and you see her blush, but then she starts to giggle as she responds

<"Thahahahat's, that's not what they're fohahor, you goof. I'm keeping you restrained for a reason."

>You raise an eyebrow

"Lucy, you shot me in the heart. I'm most certainly not going to run. If anything, the first place these hands are going if you let me out is right onto you-"

<"THAT, is exactly why I'm keeping you tied down. I know what my arrows do, you'll be all over me before we even have a chance to talk if I don't stop you."

>Well now you're just confused

>Wasn't this kinda the end goal of going after you in the first place?

>You close your eyes and think about baseball for a couple seconds to try and calm yourself

>Okay, okay

>If Lucy wants to talk first, then you can handle that

>Just don't look at her and you should be good

>You tilt your head up before opening your eyes

"...Alright, go ahead. I'm gonna stare at the ceiling though, otherwise it's, uh, gonna be hard for me to concentrate."

>You hear Lucy pause, and then the sounds of fabric moving

>Maybe she put the covers around herself?

<"Okay. I mentioned before that I had extra reasons for chasing you down, do you remember that?"

"...Yeah, I do. You figured telling them to me wouldn't make much of a difference at the time, right?"

<"Well, now's as good of a time as any."

<"The average Mamono already has several reasons to prevent wizards from ascending. On top of the legal restrictions on it, there is a heavy cultural stigma of wizardhood as a 'waste of youth'. You do have isolated communities that are exceptions and try to nurture wizards instead, but the vast majority of girls see a man close approaching wizardhood as pitiable."

"And what other reasons do you have? I assume it has something to do with what you said about wizardhood 'causing me pain'?"

<"Well, I am an Erosian, and our church has its own views on the subject."

"Not positive ones, I assume, based on the church's involvement with the AR program."

>You hear Lucy sit back

<"Erosian theology holds the average ascent of a wizard to be among the greatest of tragedies. Wizardhood requires isolation and the shielding of oneself from love, whether by poor luck or active avoidance."

>Well you can see where that's going

"So for a race of matchmakers, a full-fledged wizard represents a massive failure, doesn't it?"

>Lucy doesn't directly answer, but continues

<"The exact mechanics behind what causes wizardhood still aren't entirely known. One school of though holds that it is the male body redirecting its excess spirit energy, which would otherwise be directed towards physical strength, reproduction, or a lover, into the harnessing of magic instead. As though their souls have given up on finding love, and so turn to the acquisition of power."

>Something clicks in your head

"Is that why I can only recall you using lead arrows on actual wizards?"

<"Yes. I don't normally like to use them, since they open up someone's mind to love only by forcing them to feel the emotional pain of loss and regret. You've seen how jaded and closed-off most our marks were; for a wizard like that, such a shock is often the only thing that can subdue them for good."

>"Desperate measures for desperate times."

<"It helps that the church believes it's a pain not unlike that felt upon ascension. A lead arrow doesn't put the wizard through anything he hasn't felt already, it just amplifies that feeling."

>You think back to your discussion with that wizard back in the PLD

>He mentioned a "profound feeling of loss" that haunted him

>Maybe the church's theology had some actual experience to base it off of

"And you didn't want me to go through that."

<"I don't have any way of knowing what it would actually be like, but I didn't want to chance it and allow you to hurt your own heart."

>Something in her voice tells you she isn't finished

"That's not all, is there?"

<"Well, I... had other personal reasons."

>You can practically hear her blushing

<"...I believed you when you said you would come back after becoming a wizard."

>You don't ask the question she knows you're thinking

>She continues

>"I guess maybe I felt a little slighted by that. I know you wanted to have both me and wizard powers, but I couldn't help but wonder which was more important to you."

>Your heart sinks

"Lucy, you should know the answer to that."

>You try to move your arm again, thinking you might cup her cheek

"...It was always you."

>Lucy leans over to hug you, burying her head into your chest

>Oh fuuuuuuuuuuuck, boner going into overdrive

>Don't look down, don't look down, don't look down

<"I know. I know now, and I was pretty sure then. But when I saw you running away in those alleys, I still got scared. I think that was the biggest reason why I chased you. I wanted to put that fear to rest."

>You attempt to lean your head down to nuzzle Lucy's own

"Luce, I'm sorry. I never wanted to make you feel like that. I just wanted to see whether I could get it or not, it was never more important than you."

>You feel wet spots on your chest

<"I know, and I'm not afraid anymore. Because when you caught me in that rainy street, you gave me all the assurance I'll ever need."

>She lays there for a moment, as you feel your heart melting

>Abruptly, Lucy sits back up

<"...So, I guess I don't really have that hangup anymore. And it made me think of an idea."

>Where is she going with this?

"What kind of idea?"

<"That I should give you a choice."

>Wait is she going where you think she's going?

>You turn your head back down to look at Lucy in curiosity

>Fuuuuuuck she's still naked and you still can't handle it

>You look back at the ceiling

>Lucy continues, unfazed

>You can hear an element of bashfulness in her voice

<"If you want to... stick it out, and still try to become a wizard, I'm okay with that..."

>Woah

>Really?

>You find it hard to answer

"...What about the church? The department?"

<"I can handle the flak for that. I think I can explain myself to the clergy decently well. And what'll the department do anyway? Fire me? You're my last mark anyways, I don't lose anything."

>You lean your head back into the pillow as you think

"Well I'd have to be registered as a sanctioned wizard afterwards. But that was kinda what I was intending anyways, a permanent life as a fugitive hermit was never what I was aiming for."

>Another thought makes you squint

"Honestly, I'm not sure if I can hold out that long. I, uh, can't really even look in your general direction without, you know..."

<"Trying to rip those cuffs off the bedposts and start ravaging me?"

>It's really not helping that she put it that way

"Well, yeah"

<"Hence why I would keep you cuffed for the next couple days. I can take care of the food and everything, you would just have to focus on keeping your head on straight."

"Easier said than done, especially knowing I'll have you essentially being my caretaker until then, like a maid."

<"I could get a proper outfit if that would make you feel better about it."

>You're genuinely unable to tell whether that was a joke or not

"I think that would be rather counterproductive."

>You try to not imagine Lucy in a sexy maid costume as you concentrate on the ceiling again

"Well, I appreciate the offer, but it sounds like it might be a bit of a stretch

<"Well, there is always option 2"

>It clicks in your brain what exactly 'option 2' means, and you can feel yourself gulp-

"Aaaand that is?"

>-and yet you ask anyway

>The cupid leans down to whisper in your ear

<"I unlock those cuffs and we see what happens~"

>You're almost instantly diamonds

>Fucking hell, when did her voice get that sultry? Is it just the arrow or what?

>You writhe on the bed trying to keep control of yourself

"Nggggh, you're REALLY not making it fair..."

>Lucy giggles again, before giving you a quick peck on the cheek

<"Hey, I'm giving you the choice of a lifetime here, I'm allowed to have some fun with it. Besides, I won't lie and say I'm not still biased towards just taking you now."

>Lucy's tone gets serious again

<"But whichever choice you make, I'll support it. So it's up to you really."

>You closed your eyes for a minute as you mulled over the possibilities

>On the one hand, Lucy's giving you a free pass to wizardhood, and she'll even help you towards it

>On the other hand, you don't really feel like that's as important to you anymore

>She doesn't see it as so big of a deal anymore, so why not go for it?

>Then again, it's also not as big of a deal to you now, so do you even NEED to go for it?

>But is that the arrow talking?

>Eh, nah, it mostly feels like that just made you more honest with yourself about your feelings for Lucy

>Do you keep chasing after immense magical power, with all the complications that will come with it?

>Or do you choose to avoid the hassle and give the love of your life the attention she deserves?

------------

>A part of you begins to wonder

>Can you actually have your cake and eat it too?

>And with Lucy's express approval?

>At this point, even resisting the urge to start fucking her senseless right now is a challenge

>But that little voice in your head from the train station returns

>It's not as hurried as before, it's calm

>It's telling you that you can do this

>You close your eyes and take a few deep breaths

"Lucy...as long as you're okay with it... I would like to try."

>You feel her shift on top of you

>You open your eyes and lower your gaze just enough to view her face

>You can read her expression, even if she's trying to keep her face neutral

>She's disappointed

"I'm sor-"

>A finger to your mouth shushes you

>Lucy takes a knowing and consoling tone

<"Don't be. I gave you this choice. Yes, I am a little disappointed that I won't get to make love to you. But we've both waited 8 years for this, what's a few more days?"

>She leans down and plants a chaste kiss on your mouth

>You feel fireworks exploding on your lips

<"I know you love me, and that's what matters~"

>Downbonerdownbonerdownboner

>You lean your head back and strain to keep yourself calm

"Nnnnnngh, okayI'msoluckytohaveyoubutdoyoureallyhavetodothat?!"

>Lucy giggles as she finally gets off the bed

<"Fufufu, well of course I do. If I don't get to consummate with you for the next three days, I'm entitled to tease you a little for most of it. I'm gonna go make us some breakfast, don't go anywhere."

>You're finally able to relax your pelvic muscles a little after getting yourself back under control, and try to focus as your Cupid girlfriend walks off into what you assume is her kitchen

"Very funny..."

>This is gonna be a really long 3 days...

-----------

>The next three days were absolute hell

>Your heart and your dick were both constantly screaming at you to just fuck Lucy already

>And it certainly wasn't helping that she kept teasing you the whole way through

>Thank god she never actually followed through on the maid outfit threat

>However she did use the opportunity to prance around in every outfit she seemed to possess

>Seriously, where does a girl get that many sets of clothes?

>You were also getting a little sore from being stuck in bed for three days

>Lucy was keeping you well fed and everything, but there wasn't much that could be done to provide you with exercise

>Especially given how little you trusted your own impulses at the moment

>So for the most part the two of you passed the days watching tv, having Lucy read books to you, or just talking

>Now that the two of you weren't trying to keep a professional working relationship, you could actually talk to each other about what each of you liked in the other

>This obviously caused a lot of blushing

>You also tried to discuss date plans for after you ascended

>However that discussion was swiftly tabled because 1) both of you quickly got carried away and started to wander into the territory of "what I'd like to do to you" and 2) You're also gonna have to deal with officially registering your wizard status and all of the other shit, so it's probably for the best to not make plans til that's dealt with

>On the bright side, you got to work through the backlog of movies the two of you hadn't watched yet

>And now you got to cuddle for those

>Or rather, Lucy cuddled you, while you were still chained to the bed

>Close enough, you were happy with it

>There was, however, the matter of visitors

>A number of your coworkers from the station and Lucy's colleagues from the church came to the door from time to time

>Keeping them in the dark about your plan was a little tricky

>Obviously Lucy was no longer actively out searching for you, so you couldn't pretend you were still on the loose

>Therefore the easiest solution was to simply pretend the two of you had already done the deed, and were currently still doing so

>Whenever someone would come to the door, Lucy would mess up her hair, pretend to look exhausted, and loosen her clothes just enough to look like she'd hastily put them on

>She actually looked really hot that way, but you did your best to focus, as you had your own part to play

>You would either snore, moan, or just stay dead silent, anything to make it sound like you'd been having your brains fucked out

>The charade seemed to work, and the flow of visitors tapered off after the first couple days

>Lucy ended up explaining that the two of your were trying to keep this party going until your birthday

>You gave her a surprise kiss for coming up with that excuse

>As the days got closer, it almost felt like it was getting easier

>Well, aside from your permaboner approaching mohs scale levels that shouldn't even be humanly possible

>But you were kinda getting used to that

>You comforted yourself with the knowledge that once you get your magic powers you'll be using this to plow Lucy's cute little butt into oblivion

>And that was just enough for you to withstand the building strain in your pelvic muscles

>And so the two of you whittled away the days, until the fateful hour was to arrive...

----------

>You wake up suddenly, as something inside you had caused you to rise

>It was still dark

>Lucy and you had gone to bed relatively early on what you believe was Saturday night (you hadn't been able to keep track of time too well in your addled state)

>Something doesn't feel right

>You look out the window of Lucy's room

>A white dish stares back at you

>Oh god

>Is it time?

>You turn your head

>Lucy had put a digital clock into the room where you could see it, after you had asked about it

>The numbers on the display glow menacingly red, as though they are a harbinger

>12:00

>It is time

>You have precious little time to process this before a gnawing feeling in your chest sends you sprawling back onto the bed

>Ah, AAAAAH

>Is this the emptiness?

>It's not painful, per se

>More like a void has safely opened up inside your chest cavity

>No, a black hole, sucking everything in around it

>You can feel it spreading, through your veins, up your spine

>You don't like this

>It feels like you're drowning

>Oh christ, Maou, Lucy, anyone, MAKE IT STOP!

>You begin to scream

>The door slams open almost immediately, and Lucy stands before you in a flash

<"ANON ARE YOU ALRIGH-"

>She freezes in place, staring at you, her gaze quickly flicking to the clock, then the moon, then straight into your eyes

>You can see the look in her own

>She's seeing what she wishes she'd never had to, in spite of how hard she tried to prevent it, and how much she tried to prepare herself for it

>There's an element of sorrow

>She was right this whole time

>You wish you'd never felt like this

>Why did you go this far, it's hurting both of you

>You can feel tears start to form in the corners of your eyes as you lock gazes

>You can't find the will to even speak

>So you mouth the only thing you can think to

(Please...)

>You need her

>You need her to make this stop, this was a mistake, she was right and you should've never done this, please please please make it-

>A warm embrace surrounds you

>The feeling is lessened, though still noticeable

>Lucy is hugging you, holding you tight with all her might

>You have a hold of your faculties again

>Not that you're totally fine now, but you can hold out like this, as long as Lucy's holding you

>Neither of you says anything

>You close your eyes and focus on the feeling of Lucy's arms around you

>You don't know how long time passes like this

>It feels like forever to you

>Eventually, you notice a noise aside from your and Lucy's breathing

>It sounds like wind

>Did the window open?

>You begin to open your eyes

>No, the window's closed

>A lot of shit's blowing around in the room though

>The curtains are flapping, tissues fluttering around

>Huh

>Oh hey, the empty feeling is starting to go away

>You're feeling better

>You sit up, and Lucy looks at you cautiously, not letting go

<"Is...is it over?"

"I'm not... really sure. Maybe I should, like, try to do a spe-OOOOHHH FUUCK!"

>A new sensation overtakes you

>This is entirely different

>An exuberant feeling of power floods out from the very same spot it felt like the emptiness was coming from earlier

>It's like dopamine on steroids, jesus

>You convulse as you fall back into the bed, Lucy hanging on for dear life

<"Anon, are you okay?! Is it starting up again?"

>Mirth wells up inside you at this glorious new feeling

>You begin to laugh

"No, no this is different, THIS IS IT! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

>The room begins to be filled with an eerie light, and the wind intensifies

>Lucy is now holding onto you for dear life

>This is power

>Pure undiluted power

>It's absolutely intoxicating

>You feel utterly free

>You could take on the world

>This is the greatest high you've ever felt

>Energy is amassing in your body on an unimaginable scale

>On a whim, you flick your wrist out

>The cuffs holding your arms snap, as though made of cardboard

>You gesture towards your feet, and the chains there prove similarly weak

>You begin to float above the bed, Lucy rising with you as she begins flapping her wings

>Let's test this out a little

>You open a palm, and look down into it

>You don't really know the specifics on how to use magic, so you're just winging it here

>Maybe try visualizing what you want to make?

>How about trying fire first?

>You focus hard on forming a fire in your palm

>After a few seconds, a gout of blue and yellow flame appears, resting lazily just above your palm

>Woah

>You concentrate again

>The flame flattens out into a circle, you spin it around

>You form it into a wheel shape

>You can feel the stupidest grin plastered all over your face

>This is fucking awesome

>And you're flying! Lucy'll love this! the two of you can go take romantic night flights a-

>Oh right, Lucy

>You blink and look down at her

>The Cupid is staring at you, eyes like dinner plates as her hair flaps in the wind

>In those eyes you see a number of emotions

>Awe, uncertainty, nervousness

>You stare back at her

>It doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess what's going through her head

>Your expression softens, and you reach a hand out to caress Lucy's face

>The wind dies down, and Lucy releases her grasp on you midsection to hold that hand

>She doesn't break eye contact

>Her gaze asks a silent question

>You respond by gently pulling with your hand, lifting her up to your elevation so your faces are level with one another

"It's... a lot, everything I expected it to be and even more. But I'm still me, Lucy."

>You lean forward and touch your forehead to hers

"Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you."

>She doesn't say anything at first, but you see tears begin to form at the corners of her eyes

>The cupid then slams her mouth into your own, kissing you hungrily

>The speed of it surprises you, but you quickly respond in kind

>After a few seconds of this, Lucy pulls back, tears now filling her eyes

<"Don't you EVER scare me like that again, you blockhead!"

>You nod

"I promise."

>You return to making out for a couple seconds, then you get a devilish idea

>a pair of glowing, transparent-blue chains appear, wrapping themselves around Lucy's wrists

>Her eyes widen in alarm, but you don't allow her to pull away from the kiss, descending with her as the chains pull her down to the bed

>Once she is resting on the mattress you pull back

<"He-hey, w-what's the idea?!"

>You grin at her deviously

"Oh, just playing around a little, seeing how you look chained up. How's that feel on your wrists?"

>Lucy is momentarily distracted as she rotates her arms in the cuffs

<"Pretty good actually. It's like velvet or something."

"Good, I wanted to see if I could make them comfortable, because you're gonna be wearing them for a while."

>Lucy looks concerned again, but then you lean down to whisper in her ear

"I'm still under the effects of your arrow, you know. It's time for you to take responsibility for that~"

>A blush breaks out on the cupid's face, and it continues to redden as she realizes what she's allowed to happen

>A look of nervous excitement comes over her as you magic away your underwear...

-----------

>Your manhood stands tall and proud in front of you as Lucy's gaze fixates upon it

<"W-wow, you really like the look of me chained up that much?"

>You give her a snide glance

"Lucy, I like the look of you period, and you've been teasing me for three days. I've been this hard the entire time."

<"O-oh..."

>Her face reddens even further

>You lower yourself down onto your knees over the Cupid's trembling form

>She's still wearing an oversized nightie

>You close your eyes, and wave a hand over her abdomen

>Wait, no

>Lucy stares at you, confused

<"Aren't you gonna magic away my clothes too?"

>You rub the back of your neck in slight embarrassment

"Well, I was going to, but disintegrating some underwear that I'm wearing isn't as tricky as doing the same on someone else's body. I have a lot of power with this, but I'm still a little fuzzy on how to use it accurately, and I don't wanna mess up and hurt you by accident."

>She smiles at you

<"I appreciate that, Anon. We can try it later. But for now, you get to strip me with your bare hands~"

>You grin back at her

<"I dare say I like the sound of that"

>You gingerly reach underneath Lucy to get at the clasps behind her back and atop her shoulders

>She raises her body to give you more room, bringing your chests together

>Now that's making it a little hard to concentrate

"You're not making this very easy."

<"Just think of it like unwrapping a present~"

>After some doing, you succeed in freeing the garment, gently pulling it around the base of Lucy's wings, and then flinging it off the bed

"Finally! Now we can get down to business..."

>Lucy simply giggles

>Well, you're already in missionary position already, might as well keep it that way

>You place your lips upon the Cupid's own, reveling in the sensation

>God, you'll never get tired of how that feels

>You place one hand on the side of her tanned torso

>She feels so warm

>The other hand heads down to grab your raging erection, and guide it to its intended target

>You're already leaking some precum

>After some gentle movement, you feel yourself hit what you're pretty sure is Lucy's entrance

>A jolt shoots through your dick

>Easy cowboy, not yet

>Just eeeaaaase it in...

>You slowly push inwards

>You find yourself having to break your kiss with Lucy, so that you can rear your head back and deal with this absolutely exquisite feeling

>Teeth clench as you push even further in

>Jesus, this is amazing

>It's like the dopamine rush you just went through, but in a completely different way, and it's all concentrated directly in your dick and brain

>You can here her moaning in just the best way, though your eyes are closed in concentration

>Fuuuuuck okay don't cum yet, c'mon

>Second by excruciating second, you finally manage to bottom out in Lucy

>She moans again, reaching a delectable contralto as she does so

>Something about that, and the sensation of your hips making direct contact, drives you over the edge, and you can feel it coming

>You dive back in to kiss Lucy savagely

>She giggles into the kiss, as you feel the orgasm finally reach the end of your shaft, and begin exploding out into her

>You bring your other hand to match the first on her other side, and hold on for dear life as you weather the assault of pleasure

>Eventually, the flow subsides, and you find yourself in control of your body again

>You push up, separating from Lucy again

"Uh... sorry to be that quick about it."

>The Cupid stares up at you dreamily, and giggles

<"Hey, I understand, you've been pent up for the past three days after all."

>She follows this by smirking as lust fills her gaze

<"But are you ready for round two?"

-----------

>You slam your hips into the Cupid's tanned waist, the wet smacks echoing around the room as the two of you continue your lovemaking

>You'd been at this for a couple hours now, and by your count Lucy's wrung at least 3 orgasms out of you

>Honestly, you're starting to get a little tired

>While you are now a wizard and have vast magical power, you most certainly do NOT have the stamina of an incubus at the present point in time

>As such, you're more than a little outmatched by the bundle of sexual energy that Lucy has proven herself to be

>The little minx looks utterly satisfied and more than a little smug, and it's driving you wild

>However you are most certainly not helpless

>You have magical powers after all, it follows to use them in order to level the playing field

>So far you've been very careful and minimal with what spells you use: minor things like making a body part especially hot or cold, or flavoring the air or certain bodily fluids in a creative fashion

>But now you can tell you're just about at your limit

>So it's time to pull out the big guns

>You abruptly pull out of Lucy's entrance so you can catch your breath, to a confused moan from the Cupid

<"Are you alright, Anon?"

"Yeah... just, gimme a sec"

>She smiles somewhat playfully, but equally compassionate

<"Anon, you don't have to push yourself on my account, I'll be happy with everything you give me. Besides, we'll have plenty of time for a repeat performance~"

>The thought sends a shiver of anticipation up your spine, but you stick your hand out

"Not it's, it's not that. I just wanna try something, and it's gonna take some preparation, I think."

>Lucy looks a little wary, but she shrugs after a moment

<"Alright, then is there anything you I can do to help set it up?"

>Having gathered your thoughts and prepared your mind, you exhale

"Actually yeah. Hold out your hand."

>Lucy blinks, and then extends her left hand towards you

>You softly grab it with your own

>Lucy smirks

<"Feels kinda silly doing this after the last half hour huh?"

"Shush"

>You examine the palm of Lucy's hand, and then wave your free hand over it, concentrating on the shapes and lines you need to create

>Little by a little, an array of glowing lines etch themselves into Lucy's palm

<"Kinda tingly..."

>You try to ignore her voice, closing your eyes as you finish up the spell

>Finally, you pull your hand away, and open your eyes to examine your handiwork

>The lines have formed an intricate circle with a number of concentric designs inside

>Lucy eyes the circle curiously

<"What is it?"

>You grin

"Why don't you touch it and find out?"

>The cupid cocks an eyebrow at you, but taps a finger to the inside of the circle

>Her hips immediately buck into the air, and she falls back onto the bed, yelping

>Panting heavily, Lucy looks back at you, eyes like dinner plates

<"...A... A pleasure rune?"

>You step forward

"An improvised one, yeah. Spent the past 10 minutes thinking of the design."

<"WHILE you were fucking me-MMMPH?!"

>Lucy has little time to be incredulous as you hop onto the bed and grab her runed hand with your own, massaging the circle with your thumb

"What can I say? You give me such inspiration~"

>Lucy's fingers clench around your own, and her free arm snakes around your back as she endures the manual assault

<"Oooh, that's not, that's not faAAAAIRRR!"

>Her entire body tenses, and it's abundantly clear that she just came

<"... Wow, I... that was amazing..."

"Oh that was just the test run, hun."

>Lucy's head lolls towards you in an exhausted panic

<"W-what?"

>You make a wave, and the run vanishes from Lucy's hand

>You then move both hands to her lower torso, hovering them just above her vagina

<"Oh, you wouldn't."

>You give her a cheeky smile

"Just try me."

>As the lines begin to etch themselves above Lucy's womb, the cupid stares at you with widened eyes, but makes no effort to stop you

"See, I wanted to make sure I did it right before I put one down here..."

>The circle is completed, larger than its predecessor

"Aaaaand there we go."

>You part Lucy's legs with one hand and grasp your rapidly stiffening member with the other

"NOW we end this."

>Lucy finds no words as you aim your dick

>You ease your tip into Lucy's tight entrance once more

>Her eyes bulge and she stifles a gasp

>Damn, you're not even in yet

>The pleasure is making her vagina pulsate as she shudders

>You wince at the feeling

>Fuuuuuck

>It's okay

>After the last few rounds, you can go a bit longer with this one, no need to worry about being a quickshot again

>You slowly push in

>Lucy's face is starting to turn red as she strains to hold in her voice

>Finally you bottom out, and she finally is forced to cry out

<MMMMMMMMGAAAAHHH!"

>Oh jesus it's vice-grip-on-your-cock time

>Just endure it

>Don't stop now

>Lucy is once again breathless

<"Oh... oh maou..."

>You lean down and kiss her

"Oh you're not done."

>Go time

>You summon all the pelvic might you can muster, and begin to rock back and forth

>You find a good rhythm, jackhammering Lucy's hips with your own

>And it's certainly not an easy task with her canal hugging you like a latex glove

>The poor Cupid is going wild below you, bucking like a bronco

<"AnON wHAt HAve You DoNe?!~"

>You struggle to find the time to reply amid your own exertions

"Well... if I.. did it right... you should be so sensitive right now... that you cum with every couple thrusts."

<"WeLL GOoD jOb tHeN AAAAAAAAHHHH!"

>Lucy cums again for probably the 5th time in the past minute

>You last for about 10 more

>By this point you're starting to get tired yourself, and pretty damn close to your last orgasm of the night

>Lucy meanwhile has nearly passed out from the extended period of heightened sensation

>Her screams of pleasure have begun to die down into a mix of panting and yelps

>You're starting to get a little concerned

>Maybe you overdid it?

"Hey... Are you... okay, Lucy?"

>Her eyes are locked onto the ceiling as she distantly replies

<"Yeah...Are... YoOOUUUU... AlmOOOst... finished?"

>You drowsily nod

"Yeah... hang on..."

>The cautious part of you decides that maybe simultaneous orgasms with the rune on aren't a good idea for now

>You slow down to a stop halfway inside Lucy, and lean down, gently taking her chin in your hand

"Hey, do you want me to turn off the rune before we finish? I don't wanna make you pass out or anyth-"

>The cupid's eyes flick back to you, and widen again

<"No... no don't you DARE TURN IT OFF UNTIL WE'RE DONE!"

>Out of nowhere, Lucy's wings spring to life

>For the past couple hours they'd just been flapping and curling in reaction to Lucy's own lovemaking

>Now all of a sudden they wrap around your back, and slam you down onto (and into) Lucy

>Well fuck you didn't know they could do that

>And Lucy seems to have gotten a second wind

>A crazed look appears in her eyes as she holds you close

<"I WANT EVERYTHING YOU'VE GOT, NO HALF MEASURES ANON!"

>She cranes her head up to yours, shoving her tongue down your throat with an aggressive kiss

>Lucy's wings restart the rhythm you had, and you struggle against them to reclaim it

>Eventually, the two of you match up and begin moving in synch

>Finally you can feel the end coming

>You wrap your arms around Lucy's midsection, and hold on for dear life as she does the same

>She closes her eyes and screams into your mouth as the ecstacy of heat and pleasure flows out from you, and into her womb

>It feels like it lasts for 10 minutes, but in reality, the orgasm lasted about 30 seconds

>When you can finally feel that it's over, you summon all your remaining vigor to raise yourself off of Lucy slightly

>You wave your hand over her belly, and the glowing circle disperses

>You look at her limbs, still restrained by the spectral chains you summoned

>With another wave, those too disappear

>Okay, that's done

>You now allow exhaustion to overtake you, and collapse onto the bed, beside Lucy

>She looks similarly drained

>You reflexively grab the Cupid and pull her close

>Her arms lazily wrap around you, as do her wings once again

>You could really get used to that, they're quite soft

>You put your forehead to Lucy's, and look her in the eyes, grinning softly

"Was it worth the wait?"

>Lucy squints in exaggerated thought

<"Weeeeell, I can't say that I wouldn't have wanted to do this sooner. But I'm definitely happy now."

"Alright, but magic in the bedroom has your approval going forward, right?"

>The cupid snorts, and smiles back

<"Pleasure runes at least, sure. Anything else though, you should run by me first before trying, okay?"

>You stick your tongue out at her playfully

"Oh, fine."

>The two of you chuckle for a moment, before you lean in to plant a kiss on the Cupid's lips

"I love you, Lucy. I'm sorry I made you wait for so long."

<"Don't be. You were always mine, Eros just works in mysterious ways sometimes."

>With that, Lucy nuzzles her head into the crook of your neck, and the two of you close your eyes

>You had never slept better in your life

-------------

>As great as becoming a wizard and losing your virginity in the same night was, you and Lucy had a lot to contend with afterwards

>After all, you didn't intend to hide from the law forever

>You broke the news to the chief first

>She was ecstatic that the two of you were finally together, but your illuminating the room with a ball of light put a bit of a damper on that

>The two of you explained what happened and why, and the chief was understanding, if still rather annoyed

>As per protocol, she had to call the Department of Wizard Management, since there was an unregistered wizard (i. e. you) in Lucy's custody

>Some agents from the DWM were over pretty quick. They were a Baphomet and Lich named Shannon and Camilla, respectively

>You and Lucy actually knew them pretty well, you'd usually get in contact with DWM through them whenever you caught a mark, giving them a heads-up on where he was so they could give him a visit after he was finished being "pacified" by whatever new wife the two of you had found for him, or just Nayuta's if you had to resort to that

>Needless to say, they were confused and a little dismayed when they realized what had happened

>An Arrow Runner reaching wizardry was unprecedented, so nobody in the station was really sure how to manage it

>For the time being, it was agreed that you would have to go to the Wizard Processing Center (accompanied by Lucy of course), while they got in touch with the powers that be

>You held Lucy's hand tightly as the two of you got into the DWM van

-----------

>4 Months have passed since your birthday

>You stand in front of the door to your apartment building

>It's gonna be the first time you've been back here since you first went rogue

>You look down

>An electronic ankle bracelet sits above your left foot

>You feel a gush of air from behind you

<"I still say that thing's a little much. It's not like you're gonna run or anything."

>You turn and see Lucy landing, holding a few duffle bags with her

>You smile, and look back at the bracelet

"Well, I did kinda break the law. Long as I get to stay with you and have wizard powers while doing it, I don't mind wearing this for the rest of the year."

<"Oh well aren't you a sweet-talker."

>The Cupid pecks you on the cheek as she walks past you, into the apartment building

>You heft some bags onto your shoulders as well and follow her, eyes locked onto her cute little butt

>Louise and Otis were happy to see you and Lucy again

>And Louise was absolutely ecstatic to see the rings on your fingers

>After many pleasantries were exchanged with your neighbors, you finally opened up the door to your own apartment

>It's dark, but otherwise still looks pretty much untouched since your departure

>You take a deep breath...

>And immediately cough on the dust floating around

>Lucy pats your back to help you get the gunk outta your lungs

<"Probably not the best idea there. Looks like we're gonna have to do some cleaning..."

>"Yeah..."

>You had initially considered asking Louise to look after the place while you were gone, but that would've definitely tipped her (and by extension Lucy) off early

>And the processing center isn't very keen on allowing outside communications, so you didn't have a chance after your arrest either

>Ugh, this is gonna take forever

>Wait

>You have wizard powers

>You turn to the cupid

>"Hey, can I try something?"

>You nod to your ankle

>Lucy looks down with you, shrugs, and then pulls a keyfob out of her pocket

>She taps a button on the fob, and the light on your ankle bracelet switches from red to green

>You give her an appreciative kiss, before turning towards the living room and raising your hands

>Lights fizzle into view as you make various gestures, eventually taking the form of brooms and feather-dusters

>Hell yeah, that magic training is really paying dividends

>You now begin to direct the cleaning implements around the room, sweeping shelves and scooping dust together all at once

>You have a big dumb grin on your face as you turn to Lucy, your gestures now looking like those of a conductor

>"Hey, I can keep doing this while you get more bags if you want. More efficient and all."

>Lucy mirrors your own grin with a cute little smile, but she taps the keyfob as she shakes her head

<"Sorry anon, but you know the rules. Even if you're in safe mode, I can't let you be that far away. Besides, I should stick around and make sure you don't pull a Darcy Dormouse and let these things go nuts."

>You pout a little, but shrug as you turn back to your work

>"Yeah, okay fine. Here, I'll just finish the living room then, and we can get the rest once everything is moved in."

-----------

>Once everything was moved inside (and the apartment cleaned), you and Lucy were finally able to relax a little

>Which meant it was time for a movie night

>You grabbed some ciders out of the fridge and popped some sappy rom-com into the player, just like old times

>Except this time, the two of you can snuggle up on the couch together and make out between drinks and good comedy scenes

>So it's pretty great

>Now the two of you are at a pretty slow part of the movie, cuddled up underneath a throw blanket

>You turn to Lucy, her head nuzzled into your chest

>"Hey, so have they decided on a date for the council yet?"

>Lucy replies without opening her eyes

<"Should be next month I believe. I'm gonna have to get my best theology arguments ready."

>"I'm just glad they heard you out at the inquiry, otherwise they wouldn't even be holding a council. I wouldn't want you to get excommunicated for my sake."

>Lucy spent a lot of your time in the processing center arguing with other members of the Erosian church, and defending her actions in allowing you to ascend

>She'd managed to make her case enough that now the church was going to have an official ecumenical council on the matter of wizardry, with Lucy as a star witness

>You grip her arm a little tighter

>"I still don't."

>Lucy opens her eyes and reaches a hand up to caress your cheek

<"Hey, I know that Eros is on my side here. Even if the Matriarch doesn't agree with that, it's not gonna stop me from being an Erosian."

>You smirk

>"Careful hun, you're almost sounding like a schismatic."

>Lucy rolls her eyes playfully

<"I mean hey, I'm not gonna go around trying to evangelize people. I'll just keep practicing my faith in private, with you."

>The Cupid leers at you, and you feel a heat suffuse through your cheeks

>After the past 4 months, you've become quite well acquainted with Erosian religious 'rituals', to say the least

<"Still though, I hope I can get them to come around to my line of thinking, at least in some exceptional cases."

>You place a hand atop Lucy's pink hair

>"You'll do great, I believe in you."

>The cupid blushes, and leans up to kiss you lovingly

<"On that note, what'd you think of the chief's offer?"

>You look at the ceiling for a moment

>You'd found a message at your mailbox when you had returned to the apartment from the chief

>Your time as an Arrow Runner was obviously at an end, and you'd already made piece with that

>The chief had a new position on offer though, as an instructor for new Arrow Runner recruits

>She said your experience as both an experienced runner and a wizard gives you a unique perspective that would be of great benefit to novices, and help them understand their targets

>How exactly this job position would be implemented depends on how the church handles this whole issue, but it's basically a done deal if you want it

>It is just an option

>Strictly speaking, you and Lucy are still getting your pensions for retiring as an Arrow Runner team

>Could just take it easy and start building a family

>Of course you could most certainly do both

>And training rookies does sound like a cushy job

>You look back down to Lucy

>She probably wouldn't be able to help out in your job if the church excommunicates her

>And even if she's okay with that, it wouldn't be fair

>"Let's see what happens with the council. If they kick you out, I'm not taking the job."

>You see Lucy's smile grow a little bigger

<"You big softy."

-----------

>The moon is high in the sky

>Only half full

>You and Lucy stand on your apartment balcony, clad in your pajamas

>The Cupid eyes you worriedly

<"You sure you're ready for this?"

"Well we know it works indoors, this is just my first try in the open air"

>You spent a not-insignificant part of your wizard training trying to get this technique right

>Hopefully you've got it nailed down now

>You turn towards Lucy with a steely gaze

"I'm ready"

>Lucy flutters into the sky, and hits the button on her fob

>Your ankle monitor goes green again

>You take a deep breath, and face your hands towards the ground, focusing on the projection of energy out from them

>Just take it slow

>You feel your feet slowly begin to lose contact with the ground

>Your heart beats faster

>Easy, don't get too hasty

>Take it steady

>You open your eyes

>Lucy's own glittering orbs meet yours

>You're face to face with her

>floating about 10 feet out from your balcony

>You try not to look down, but the temptation is too great

>Woah

>You're really high up

>You feel your heartrate quicken further

>Until the cool sensation of Lucy's hands on your cheeks redirects your focus

>She turns your head to face hers again, smiling warmly

<"It's a lot, isn't it?"

>You swallow some spit

"How long did it take you to get used to it?"

>The Cupid shrugs

<"Well I was really young, the memories of my first flights are a little hazy sometimes..."

>She removes her hands and backs away

<"But hey, you're doing it!"

>You look at your hands, and a bit of glee seeps into your voice

"Y...yeah, I am. I'm flying!"

>Lucy smirks

<"Oh please, you're hovering. That's not flying."

>You glare at her playfully

"Okay fine, then I guess I'll start moving."

>Lucy throws her arms back

<"Go ahead, let's see if you can."

>Oh it's on

>You focus on your hands and feet again, raising yourself up further into the air

>Then you ease off on it, enough to let yourself drop back to Lucy's level

>Next you raise an arm to push yourself to one side and back

>Okay, that's 2 dimensional movement down at least

>Now for something a little more complex

>You shift your hands into what seems like the right configuration, and begin to drift lazily around in a circle, with Lucy as its apex

>Upon returning to your starting position, Lucy cocks an eyebrow

<"Think you've got it now?"

>You raise a hand up to your face, studying it

"Yeah, yeah I think I do."

>Lucy sighs and closes her eyes

<"...Okay, now I guess I have no choice but to admit that you're fly-OH EROS!"

>Lucy opens her eyes to see you dropping out of her view

>You jet underneath her, doing a loop before coming up from below to scoop her up into your arms

>Panic is swiftly replaced by relief and mild annoyance, as she punches you in the arm

<"Sweet Maou Anon, don't do that! You almost gave me a heart attack!"

>You hold her a little closer

"Sorry, I just felt like I'd gotten the hang of it-"

<"-and wanted to show off?"

>The Cupid glares at you, her arms crossed

>Yet you can't seem to stop smiling

"Give me all the evil eye you want, doesn't change the fact that I can fly now."

>Lucy glares a couple more seconds

>Then she rolls her eyes and throws her arms around you

<"Okay fine, it's cool!"

>You can feel her smiling over your shoulder

>She's just as giddy as you are over this, and you both know it

"So, do you wanna make a circuit around the block?"

>Lucy pulls back and stares into your eyes, before planting a kiss on your cheek

>Take that as a yes

>Suddenly her wings spring to life, and Lucy flutters out of your arms, beaming

<"We'll take it slow, can't have you getting too far away from me after all."

>And with that she begins to flap away, much slower than you've seen her do before

>You position your hands to push you forward, following her

>The two of you soar together, taking in the lights of the city below you

>It's beautiful

>And it feels amazing

>The wind upon you, the feeling of absolute freedom

>You feel like you could go anywhere (though you know legally you can't)

>You take a glance at Lucy, flying beside you, a grin plastered across her face

>No, you don't wanna be anywhere else

>You just wanna do this, with her

>Her hand grasps your own, and the Cupid picks up speed, pulling you along

>You decide to focus on just keeping yourself stable and let her take the lead

>She takes you through loops, spins, and all sorts of acrobatic moves

>Would be a hell of a show if anyone were watching

>Flitting through the air is one thing, but what really gets you is the look on Lucy's face

>She looks so utterly overjoyed, in a way that you only started seeing the night she caught you

>It's a face you never wanna live without

>Your impromptu aerial routine ends, and you pull Lucy back to you, wrapping an arm around her waist

"If I didn't know any better, I'd say you're quite happy to be doing this with me."

>She puts a hand to her mouth in mock shock

<"Oh, I don't know what you're talking about, surely you're seeing things."

>You both chuckle a little

>You touch your forehead to Lucy's own, speaking barely above a whisper

"Thank you, again. I wouldn't be able to do this with you if you hadn't let me."

<"You wouldn't be able to do this with me if you hadn't tried in the first place. I'm just glad we decided to talk about it in the end."

"And I'm sorry again, for the wait."

>She puts a finger to your mouth, and stares into your eyes with pure love in her own

<"Don't be. You were worth every second."

>With that, you both leaned in for a kiss

>Think you might stay this way for a while

>Holding her

>Kissing her

>Floating here, with just the moon to keep you company

-------------

THE END

-------------

>A few weeks later...

>The old wizard meditated within his sanctum, deep underground

>And yet, his ruminations on the secrets of magic did nothing to quell the anger that still boiled within him

>That damned wannabe neophyte had caused him quite a bit of trouble during his escape

>The twerp had ruined his elevator, his monitor, and several of the meticulous wards set up around the lair in order to shield it from discovery

>He'd had to pull a lot of favors with the other wizards to procure the supplies needed to relocate elsewhere underneath the PLD, and setting the wards back up took months

>At long last, he was finally able to study again, but the survival of that wretch was the only thing consuming his mind

>At least he could console himself with the knowledge that the little shit inevitably got caught

>Just like rogue Arrow Runners always do

>He sighs, and uncrosses his legs

>Perhaps some social contact with the other elders would do him some good, and get his mind off of things

>The wizard stands up, and reaches for his keyboard, only to stop

>He feels something

>His wards are... under attack?

>An intruder, already?

>He focuses his mind on the wards, feeling them like a spider feeling the threads of its web

>...the disturbance is coming from the north

>Great magical power is required to even sense the wards

>Perhaps a sabbath cell is onto him?

>No...

>This mana is male...

>Another wizard? But ho-

>A vein begins to appear on the man's forehead

>That... cannot be possible

>He immediately put all his power outwards, to smite this irregularity

>However it might have happened, the boy shall not win on this day!

>A grand spectacle of electricity and light flashed through the underground chamber as the wizards engaged in distant battle

>Wards set to function as alarms began blaring from all directions as the fight seemed to encompass the entire area around the wizard's sanctum

>But this wizard would not yield

>He had spent too many years studying the mystical arts to be beaten by a mewling whelp

>Eventually, the old wizard felt his younger counterpart's resistance weaken, as though retreating

>A sense of satisfaction began to flow through him

>Hopefully that had taught the boy a lesson he would not soon forget

>This was far too much attention however, he would need to relocate once more

>Yet another headache

>Still, the wizard felt better, reinvigorated even

>Even the air down in his sanctum smelled a little sweeter

>Wait

>SMOKE!

>The wizard effortlessly cast a mental stimulus spell to fortify his mind against the Miasma that was rapidly filling his lair, and pivoted around to face the threat

>Yet as soon as he turned, he felt a piercing sensation in his stomach

>Before him stood a werewolf, fur black as the dark of his lair

>In her hand was the wooden shaft of whatever was currently lodged in his thorax

>And he had a sinking feeling that he knew what object in particular it was

>Matched only by the blackness currently spreading through his entire body

>The werewolf gently pulled the arrow out of the wizard's body, baring its leaden tip for the man to stare at, agape

>It was the last thing he could process before he began succumbing to the arrow's effect

>That, and the werewolf's smiling face as she caught his stumbling form

>He could barely make out what she had said

<"You poor thing. My name's Alyssa, and I'll be taking care of you from now on, mister~"


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