"Now, it's showtime!"

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As the two sat down at the food court, Tsuruko and Deen could hear the theme song of Ascending Firebird season three playing. (Technically it had a subtitle, but Tsuruko couldn't make it out.)

It popular and got a good reception, so after the first series ended they made a sequel, which also did well, resulting in the creation of the current, third, season.

It was originally a so-called "Tokusatsu" anime that was aimed at all ages, but the main characters use the power of several gems called "Cores" to transform, and utilize the "spirit energy" in the atmosphere to become "knights" to fight, the story has lots of heavy elements like genocide and war, the characters are all designed to be cutely drawn and likable, and the battle scenes are all pretty detailed—of course, there was a ton of screwball comedy to calm down the dark atmosphere.

Hence, due to those factors, the audience widened up to middle and high school girls, as well as adult anime fans, and apparently the story's had a heavier atmosphere to it ever since the second season.

There are also lots of similar works that were likely influenced by the show, like the doujin game "Shinkū no AGE", which has the same core elements of Ascending Firebird, with its own original ideas and ero scenes added in. Most hardcore Ascending Firebird fans say that they're all just rip-offs, but there are some that got popular enough for their own anime.

Tsuruko had been into this anime ever since she saw season two several years ago, and ended up being affected by it so much she started calling her attacks by the attack names of the series.

Deen honestly thought the main antagonist looked like the bastard child of George Washington and Colonel Sanders. Everyone other non bishōnen villain looked like they just came from a Society for Creative Anachronisms convention.

"Remember when halfway the show, the rival for the protagonist was introduced? They also added a dark twist to the story...really, that rival was a competent and menacing enemy with no amusing gimmick. His design was more shōnen; while the others seemed so cutesy. It was...well, really jarring." Deen brought up this topic; truthfully, he thought that he himself looked like the rival in Ascending Firebird—only he had the stature of a scrawny man in his mid-twenties who didn't work out.

"I really didn't like him, honestly..." Tsuruko twitched as she pressed her pointer fingers together; though she had a slight blush on her face. "I much preferred Mitsuru. He was a really cool guy, if a bit serious. But my favourite was Gunha. He reminds me a lot of you."

"...Huh?" Deen was genuinely surprised by her words. He didn't even notice it himself. "Anyway,'ve changed me a bit. I never imagined that I'd become such good friends with you when we first met." Deen hugged himself, insecurely. "...I always thought that girls were a special kind of being or something. But you're not aliens, after all. You're like the same kind of humans as guys are... something like that."

Tsuruko simply smiled back. "We're all the same underneath it all!"

Deen continued, "I wanted you to rely on me, and I tried to act all cool...I ran around and did a lot of things. And even when I didn't know how to explain myself, you still understood what I was thinking..." He nodded, "And I understood you, too."

Tsuruko simply held Deen's hand tightly, taking caution not to crush his delicate fingers. To a person such as Tsuruko Sejren, she could crush a human on a single reflex; she tried her best not to hurt Deen Lhant. "...I understand you too, Deen. You've been through a lot, and I'll make sure that I'll protect you from the dangers of this world."

Deen's cheeks became flushed crimson in embarrassment; as he corrected her, "No...Let me know if you're ever going through some hard times, okay? If you can't say it, just give me a sign. Even if we end up in different places, I'll always rush to your rescue." Tsuruko giggled; at this point, Deen didn't know what was so funny. "...Huh, why are you laughing...Oh, don't tell me. This was a disaster to say, wasn't it...?"

"No—it's c-cute."

Deen immediately froze up in shock; truth be told, he couldn't believe that a girl would actually find his attitude "cute". "I, er, umm..."


A powerful sound resounded throughout the food court—immediately, Tsuruko hopped to her feet, and Deen followed suit. However, the latter couldn't help but think, "Ugh, why does this always happen whenever I finally get a date..."

"Huh? Ah! You!" The jester-like golden and black being who approached with an aura shrouding their body called out; Tsuruko's ears picked up as she stared straight at the joker-esque figure.

"Ehhh!?" Tsuruko seemed surprised. "Do you know me? Cuz I can't remember if I know you or not..." She scratched her head, pouting. "I'm so sorry, mister symbiote!"

"...What is she on about?" The jester looked at her in disbelief. "...Gah, it's no use." She mused, as he withdrew a singular playing card from subspace. "Let's see, here... "If the subject fails to respond, use aggression to liberate her true disposition"... Right. Did they ever pick the wrong symbiote for this one..."

Tsuruko tilted her head in confusion, further asking, "Hey, let's be friends!" All of a sudden, Tsuruko Sejren extended her hand towards the jester.

The jester was absolutely taken aback by Tsuruko's unusual proposition; as she withdrew several more cards. "In order for our agenda to be furthered, I'm afraid that you'll have to reveal your true form, Tsuruko, MKN-000."

Tsuruko...suddenly became serious. "...Guh." Her eyes went from innocently droopy to intimidating sharp in a heartbeat; she let out an animal-esque snarl from the bottom of her throat—though, it sounded almost like...static.

The jester cackled, "My interest is in the design of people. What makes them tick? What holds them together? All too often, it's one little thing. In architecture they call it a keystone. The one stone that keeps the entire arch from collapsing. The weak point. And I'm very, very good at finding those weak points. And that, your true nature is your single weakness. You try and conceal it from everyone, believing that if you masquerade as a human, you can bestow the entire race of filthy pigs with the false emotion known as "hope". Yet when you reveal the real Tsuruko Sejren, you'll be cast aside like a falling star."

Deen couldn't understand what on earth that joker was talking about. "...Tsuruko, what's this guy saying?" On a reflex, Deen Lhant withdrew his twin pistols; twirling them around by his pointer fingers before aiming them straight at their enemy. "You're just trying to say random stuff to psych Tsuruko out, aren't you—oof!" Just as suddenly, Deen was knocked to the ground, held at claw-point by a triad of water demons....

"DEEN!" Tsuruko swiftly turned around, attempting to dash over to her ally to save him...only to feel a sharp pain smash into her torso. There was no doubt about it—one of this symbiote's playing cards had sliced straight into her abdomen.

"Now, be a good girl, okay? Why don't you show me what I've been waiting for...." His words, while affable, were tinged with absolute venom.

"Deen..." Tsuruko's voice suddenly became full of anguish, as she sounded like she wished to apologize for...something. "I'm sorry."

The hairs on Tsuruko's body were raised up. Her scream echoed through the court, and her "skin" slid aside like it was expanding as the glow from her inner body showed itself to the outside. The silhouette "Tsuruko" that was in the food court started to expand, and the heat and light was emitted from amongst the gaps as the "skin" split open.

Tsuruko's body, in a flash of light, completely changed. Her purple eyes became luminescent blue eyes that made her appear quite akin to the ideal of beauty in the current age; though her hair remained the same. Any traces of humanity disappeared in terms of her body, as she donned cybernetic armour, including sprouting shoulder-pads, high-collared neck armour, ear-like protrusions on her head which were similar to boosters, armour covering her pelvic and the sides of her abdominal region, and similarly coloured armour on her thighs; however, she had golden lining at her shoulders, upper forearms, and thighs. Her most evident cybernetic portions were above her thighs, at her shoulder-blades, and supposed lack of feet; and what wasn't cybernetic revealed that her bodily joints were like that of a doll's.

Overall...this Tsuruko Sejren was completely different than the one Deen had known prior.

Tsuruko Sejren raised her buster cannon which had manifested without hesitation, and the nozzle immediately shot a large aura-particle block. A torrent of light spread filled the food court, and the massive energy, shockwave and scattered residual of particles passed through the entire city. The concrete of the food court that was shrouded in an ominous colour let out a dying scream.

The light came flying out from the lighting glass that was designed in the shape of a chessboard, and the eternano dust that accumulated inside was blown outside by an explosion. The outer wall was blown aside by the expansion of the impact inside the food court, and the chessboard-shaped window was ripped from within as the court was devoured by the powerful quake completely.

The symbiote that wanted to enter the hollow first hurriedly retreated, and they adjusted their heights as they left the scene. The crab-shaped symbiote, Cancer, whom had tagged along with the jester symbiote, tried look for his ally amongst the dust. He lost contact with his ally ever since she entered the food court from the opening on the other side. "Did she use too much force and kill the Coordinate?" As Cancer wondered, the jester escaped from the crumbling debris, and there was another profile that appeared from the dust.

The being that shattered the lighting glass and was covered with shattered glass raced right above, into the skies of Four. This mechanical maiden was still dragging a trail of light from her body, and there was no way he could mistake her.

"So you've finally become the Coordinate…MKN-000, the Prototype Kaizorg...Tsuruko Sejren!"

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