Knights and Swords
I do not own Fate/Stay Night or High School DxD
Chapter 1: The Edge of a Sword
Shirou groaned heavily as he began to awaken from his slumber, the incessant shrill beeping of his alarm clock beckoning him to arise from his bed and join the waking world.
A golden eye cracked open to stare blearily at the digital clock, a hand having already pressed the correct button to end the clamour. It's bright green digits shone like a torch in the darkness of the room, making it easily read.
In the morning.
He groaned again. The hours he had to keep for his job were ridiculous.
But needs must when the devil drives. Or when you have a practically empty wallet.
He shrugged inwardly, tearing the covers off of himself and rising, being careful not to take the blanket and sheets off of his bed partner as he did so, his bare feet reflexively flinching as they came into contact with the cold varnished floor.
" 'sniroo~," he heard the faint whining sound of his partner say, muffled by the comfortable pillow her face was buried in, her golden hair draping over her face, leaving only a slice of emerald to be seen behind that veil, "whuh-?"
"Go back to sleep, Saber," he said gently, refraining, barely, from reaching out to stroke her hair, a favourite pastime of his when they were both in bed, "I'm just getting ready to go to work."
Giving in to a little of his desire, he leaned over to peck his beloved on the forehead quickly, his lips brushing the mess of golden locks, before rising out of bed completely to ready himself for the day.
He heard the half-hearted and annoyed grumbles from the bed even as he made his way into the small bathroom of the cosy (read: small) apartment.
Snapping on the light and quickly darting into the shower stall after stripping off his boxers, the only sleepwear he wore, he quickly turned on the water, hissing at the first blast of freezing cold water as it struck his scarred chest, before it slowly began to heat up, warming him up as a counterpoint to the weather that he knew was unwelcoming outside.
He closed his eyes, relaxing as the warmth soaked into his muscles, making them loosen and more flexible, his thoughts wandering into introspection, the trials and tribulations of the past, and the current circumstances that he and Saber (much to his heartfelt joy. He hadn't wanted to let her go, to let her fade, not in his heart of hearts) now found themselves in.
It was just over a month since he and Saber had woken up, confused and disorientated, him more so than her, in that field, beneath that tree.
In a land that was far away from where they had been previously facing down the manifestation of the tainted Grail.
If only they had known how true that statement was.
When the young magus had opened his eyes for the first time in that field, confusion had run rampant in his mind. Where was he? What had happened?
However, those questions had paled into insignificance in the face of the final one:
Was Saber alright?
He had quickly verified that Saber was there, somehow, in someway, not having disappeared or faded back to the Throne, resting beside him beneath the large tree. He had ceased breathing for a moment, drinking in her responding features, devouring her with his eyes, making sure she wasn't an illusion or hallucination of desperate hope, his hand reaching to touch her, to make sure she was real.
Any doubt about that was erased when her gauntleted hand shot up to grab his reaching appendage and pulled.
Pinning his face and body into the rough bark of the tree even as the extended arm was now locked behind his back and demands were said, which stopped just as quickly when she realised what she had done and, more importantly, who she did it to.
He couldn't blame her at all for what she did, such ingrained instincts had saved her life, and his, more than a few times in the past.
But he swore he still tasted splinters from that greeting to this day.
Thankfully, the taste of the ancient oak on his tongue was only brief, the King of Knights releasing him from the grip she had on him almost instantly, allowing him to step back, spitting chips of rough bark.
Strangely, despite the discomfort, he was surprised that the resulting reaction to his movements wasn't more painful for him. In fact, there seemed to be no pain at all, just uncomfortable and leaving a bad taste on his tongue.
Not to mention the strength of Saber's grip, something he had personally seen crush steel like it was tin foil. Despite the tight grasp, his bones had not been turned to powder as they should have been, only seemingly held firmly and tightly.
Yet he somehow knew she hadn't held back as much to prevent that in a normal mortal like him.
It was in that brief moment that he knew something was wrong. Very wrong.
"Master!" He heard Saber cry, her voice surprised, shocked and apologetic. He could understand well her dismay. A warrior born, her reflexes were deadly and implacable, a necessity for someone who's reign as King involved moving from battlefield to battlefield without end. In a war, they would be lauded and appreciated, a skill and trait that was necessary for survival in those turbulent times.
In the modern era, the digital age, however...
"I'm fine, Saber," he assured her, trying to make her relax, rolling his wrists and arms, clenching his muscles, in a subtle way, something that did the human comparison to a computer's system diagnostic.
All systems were green and ready to go, lacking even the exhaustion and lactic acid built up that he should have due to the fighting and contact with that vaporous black mud, the actual make up of the supposed Holy Grail, that the fake priest, Kirei Kotomine, had used against him. Even the strain he had put on his arm when he had punched the Azoth dagger into the priest's chest was gone.
"Better than fine," he murmured under his breath, his golden eyes narrowed in thought as he inspected the lightly tanned and corded muscled flesh. It looked almost the same to his regular skin, the same colour, the same texture, but there was something about, a feeling he had that wouldn't go away, that something was different, hidden beneath the surface.
He could feel the emerald eyes that he so loved meticulously eye him, scanning him for any deceit or hidden injury. "I see." The quiet words were firm, if puzzled, as if acknowledging his current state but not understanding how it came to be.
"Do you know what happened?" Asked Shirou, getting his mind back on track, he could figure out what was different about him later, right now, figuring out what in the name of all things in this world had happened was more important. "All I remember is you bisecting the Grail before something went wrong and we were both engulfed by it." He frowned more, trying to organise thoughts that were oddly slow at the moment, as if his mind was working against a current in his river of thoughts, or trudging through tar and sludge, each step weighing heavier, holding him down.
The throbbing headache, one that seemed, to him, to be the Grandmother of every other one, that was currently pounding in his head wasn't helping matters at all. He was thankful for the pain he endured in the past. Without experiencing it, he would have been able to do little more than feebly whimper on the ground.
No pain, no gain, as they say.
"That is all that I know as well," Saber said with a nod, a frown on her noble features as she looked around, "this place...it seems...almost familiar to me." She looked confused.
Shirou looked around himself. They were both certainly somewhere different than they had been before. The rolling grass covered hills, interspersed with with lone tall trees, was about him. The sun was high in the sky, about mid-morning if he had to guess, which was very different from the tip of dawn that he last remembered seeing.
This was not the type of terrain that was typical of his homeland.
Somehow, he didn't think he was in Fuyuki, that he wasn't in Japan, anymore.
"...This isn't good," he said flatly, not seeing any sign of habitation or human life about.
To sum up their situation, they were in the middle of nowhere, not knowing where they are, and had no clear signs that would point to the nearest population centre, after having been through a trying ordeal without equal. They also didn't know how they had arrived at this spot, which was of concern, or who or what had done so.
Yes, this current situation they were was most definitely 'not good'.
A warped, yet melodious, voice was suddenly heard, distinctly female despite the vocal distortion and seemed subtly amused.
He reacted in an instant.
He spun towards the source of the voice, heard from above in the branches of the oak, his suddenly filled with blades with but a thought, oddly coming to him faster than they normally would have, as if they were only waiting to be called. His body instinctively shifted into a battle stance, one that seemed both intimately familiar and strangely alien, both swords held horizontally across his chest, the flat of the blades facing him and his opponent.
He heard the clank of steel on steel as Saber also readied herself, clasping the veiled Excalibur in her metal gauntleted hands, her form also spinning towards the origin of the voice.
The sight which greeted them was far from what they were expecting.
"You two are a looooooong~ way from home," the being said, lounging it's semi-transparent quadrupedal body on one of the stouter branches of the ancient oak, amusement gleaming in it's, or rather her, golden slitted eyes, a match for Shirou's own.
It was about the size of a great cat, like a tiger or a lion, and her body was just as lithe and powerful as those incredible animals. Similar limbs and shape, except that instead of thick or silky fur, gleaming scales coated her instead, a dark emerald green that bordered on black, looking like nothing more than iridescent metallic snake skin.
She differed greatly from a simple great cat from there on.
About where her rib cage met the shoulders, massive black feathered wings expanded, tuck up and folded away at that moment but still present. If her words hadn't given her away as unusual, then the wings would have. Her neck was also long, extending out like a serpent's and seemed just as supple and flexible. The face was more unique, looking like an alien mix of human and scaled feline, except with a longer muzzle, that strangely seemed almost natural, beautiful even, and suitable rather than horrible and ugly. An effect that took some doing. She also had a long mane of dark hair running down the length of her neck like a horse. They had no right being on any animal born of the natural earth.
That left only a single possibility that Shirou could possibly think of on what this being was.
A Phantasmal Beast. A catch all term for a non-human being, or existence, that deviated from the rules of nature and biology, beasts and creatures who once roamed the World during the Age of the Gods. Myths and legends of their existence had been told again and again through out the ages. The Griffin of Ancient Greece, the Roc of Persia, the Kappa of Japan. Unicorns, the Cretan Bull, the Kraken and so many more were counted among their number. Often they were part of a Quest of a Hero, allowing those men and women to ascend to the Throne for defeating these powerful beings. Ever since the decline of Magic though, it was almost unheard of to see one, such was their rarity. It was considered a miracle in itself to even see one.
And he was now staring one in the face.
Shirou wasn't sure if he should be staring in utter awe or piss his pants in fright. He didn't know the exact nature of this one, it seemed to by a mish mash of various terrestrial beasts like many of the more ancient Beasts, but he knew beings such as this only got stronger as time passed, potentially embodying a True Magic in strength should they exist long enough. He was definitely outgunned at the moment, even with Saber at his side.
Speaking of the King...
"Identify yourself!" The smaller King of Knights demanded, her face hard as stone and her determination harder than diamond as she took a step forward, her Invisible Air brandished in a threatening manner. He knew that she would do whatever she could to ensure he would not come to harm.
He wasn't the most prideful or arrogant of people, thinking that he could do everything himself and not need the help of others, and accepted aid from others when it was necessary and in over his head, even if he didn't like inconveniencing others with his own troubles, but he could still stand his own ground, even in the face of great, impossible, odds.
So it still niggled at him, despite his acknowledgement of Saber's superior ability, that he needed to be protected in her eyes.
It made him feel somewhat less of a man.
"Relax, King of Knights," the strange beast said with amusement, her face surprising expressive as she showed the razor sharp teeth in her muzzle, seeming to grin, "I mean you and the young man no harm," her scaled brow seemed to scrunch together, like a small frown or in deep thought, her fangs disappearing behind her lips again, "not that I can hurt your former Master anyway."
The words shot through him like a bullet through tissue paper and had him desperately delving into his Magical Circuits, looking for that link that was always between them, even with how weak it had been in the beginning when he had botched her summoning. Despite this frantic soul searching, his hands never wavered in their hold on the pair of swords, Chinese falchions of opposing colours, one a deep black of the abyss and one the pristine white of fallen snow, the names Kanshou and Bakuya whispered in his mind, his arms stayed solid in their positions and his golden eyes kept their gaze fixed upon the strange beast.
With his circuits already active, maintaining the existence of the naked blades he bore, it was almost easy to delve into them, inspect them, like he had done it a thousand times before.
Except he hadn't.
And what he saw in the depths of his soul, within his connections to the astral realm, had him more confused than ever, bordering on scared.
That was the first thing he felt as he touched his circuits. A feeling that he had never truly associated with himself. Even when Rin had managed to unlock his proper circuits for him to use instead of the borderline suicidal method of cannibalising his nerves to create a weak and temporary one, he had never felt the raw power they now displayed. His power could have been compared to a small and shallow brook or stream before, running over small pebbles to babble endlessly. Relatively easy to access, when he had known how, but small and finite, easily able to be depleted and influenced by other sources.
Now though, it surged and roared like Niagra Falls in the Americas, practically bursting at the seams to surge forth into the world, pushing against the container that was his body, saturating it with power. It was also deep, almost bottomless compared to his previous small well.
And his circuits...
They felt...cleaner, more pure and right. It was like he had been a car, running on only three cylinders, able to go and move but never able to use his full potential, hampered by an old injury. But now it was like they had just been given a full service, was now completely healed from the atrophy they had been put through as a result of his own misunderstanding of magecraft.
All twenty-seven of them.
But there was something beyond that, something that radiated power on a level he had only ever seen and felt once before. Something that beat like a heart, pulsing power through his veins.
And even beyond that pounding heart, he could something else, something he had nothing to compare to.
But these things were for another time, when he wasn't facing a Beast of myth, when he wasn't so concerned that Saber would disappear before his very eyes, lacking an anchor to the physical world and this time.
He searched for the metaphysical cord that tied he and Saber together, that should have been severed, erased and vanished, along with the destruction of the Grail.
Only to find nothing.
His went still and pale, his heart in his throat in grief and sorrow and anger.
The tie that had seen both of them through thick and thin, a bond that had survived hardship, pain, agony and the hell that is the battlefield was gone, not even a trace of it left. It was like someone had cut off his hand, torn out his heart, and he had only just realised it.
"What did you do?" he growled in anger at the Beast that had now risen to it's paws, it's lithe tail swinging like a metronome as it crouched on that branch. He could still see the leaves of the oak's higher branches through her body. Was it perhaps a Beast that could be likened to spirits? Able to affect spiritual bodies?
That thought paled in comparison to the anger he felt at the link he had with Saber being destroyed, even if he had used the last Command Seal to empower her to defeat and destroy the Grail. There should have been at least a fragment of something left over in his circuits, a fragment he would have treasured for the rest of his days.
But there was apparently nothing there now.
"I did nothing," the being said calmly, the light of amusement still in her golden eyes as she looked at their discomfort and trepidation with sly pleasure, watching them squirm.
"Saber," Shirou said, looking at her slightly while keeping an eye on the beast.
"I am fine, Shirou," she answered shortly, never turning around or taking her eyes off of the Beast before them.
"As you should be," the Beast said with a regal nod, "things have changed. You both were changed. Are you willing to hear how? Or will you continue to bear steel at someone who has done no harm?"
Shirou narrowed his eyes up at the Beast. She knew something, something about this convoluted situation they now found themselves in. They needed information.
Reluctantly, he released his hold on the blades he had Traced, allowing them to fracture into motes of prana. He didn't really have a choice, not at this moment. He saw Saber hesitate, as if she was unwilling to remove a form of her defence, to leave herself vulnerable to this being that was before them, unknowing if this whole scenario was a mere trick to lower their guards. But she also put up her sword, glaring up at the Beast as she did so, warning the Beast against any type of trickery.
"Thank you," the Beast said with a smile, "now proper introductions can begin."
With lithe grace, the beast leapt from the branch it crouched on and floated slowly to the ground, as if her downward leap was put into slow motion, and landing on the grass, not making a single sound.
Nor bend a single blade of grass, Shirou was quick to notice. In fact, the grass blades seemed to go through the paw, as if the Beast before was little more than an illusion.
"I know who you both are," she said, looking at Shirou, "Shirou Emiya, former Master of Saber," then at Saber, "Arturia Pendragon, King of Knights and wielder of Excalibur," she craned her neck back, making an 'S' shape that let her see both of them at once and bearing an odd marking where the serpentine neck met the chest, looking something like an asterisk or a stylised sun with eight points, like a compass. "But you are unlikely to know of me." The muzzle seemed to grin again, "I am Anzu, the Usurper Dragon," she seemed to grin as both Saber and Shirou rocked back on their feet, shocked to be in the presence of such a being. A Phantasmal Beast, of any rank, was a miracle to be seen. To see and speak to one of Dragon-Kind, those beings who generated Prana simply by breathing and existing, who were reputed to have completely disappeared from the world during the decline of Magic, was a whole other level.
"And I am to be your guide in this new world."
The noise jarred Shirou out of his thoughts, bringing him back to reality.
"Shirou, are you getting out?" He heard Saber call softly, keeping her voice down so as not to disturb the neighbouring apartments through the thin walls.
"A moment," he answered over the hot rain of the shower, even as he swiftly turned off the knobs and plucked up a towel, quickly rubbing himself dry and throwing on a pair of nightwear for such an occasion.
Opening the bathroom door, he was greeted by a stoic looking Saber, her hair still mussed from sleep but now more aware.
Seems she didn't want to go back to sleep after all.
Even as mussed as she was, she still held an air of beauty and majesty about her, making him smile at her. He thanked the Heavens above that he could still wake up to see that face every morning.
"I'll make breakfast," he said softly as he passed, his fingers gliding along her bare arm, making her shiver, not in cold, but in delight.
"Eggs if you can," she requested as she passed him, ready to take her own shower and other ablutions, her long golden-blonde hair no longer in it's normal braid.
He moved down the still dark hall, almost immediately stepping into the lounge/dining/kitchen combination of the small apartment. Their home.
"Took you long enough," a familiar warped yet melodious voice said from the couch, the scaled felinoid head of Anzu craning over the back of the comfortable seat, her golden eyes glowing in the dim light, amusement and slight mockery dancing in them, "I almost thought you had drowned."
"I was lost in my thoughts," explained the Sword Incarnation, as he swiftly drew out the necessary equipment and ingredients to make a decent breakfast for himself and Saber, "and what are you doing outside the Gear anyway?" Shirou glanced over his shoulder, looking at the ancient dragon in slight worry for the friendly being. "I thought it was difficult for you to Project yourself out of it due to the power necessary?"
"It is difficult," the dragon admitted, "but it is not that difficult. Besides," the dragon sighed heavily, "do you have any idea how boring in can get in that thing? Nothing but the same steel walls, day after day, to stare at, until you wake up and I can perceive the world through your senses." The old dragoness growled lightly, a bright blue light burning behind her sharp fangs, "even if I cannot affect anything in the real world in this form, at least I am not completely dependent on you to see the world." The draconic face frowned, ruffling her feathered wings in irritation, "I did not accept a second chance at life from Great Red just to be chained like a beast for an eternity."
"I've offered to let you out," Shirou pointed out, talking and cooking at the same time with ease, a skill brought about from years of practice, "just because the Great Red wanted some entertainment, doesn't mean you need follow his every word out of a false sense of duty."
"I gave my word," Anzu said, sounding affronted, letting Shirou know he had really stepped in it, "in return for the Red Pain In The Ass returning me to life, I was to submit myself to be bound and sealed within a Sacred Gear for the span of it's recipient's lifetime. I will never renege on my word, even with your insistence on freeing me. Even if you choose not to use the Gear, to cast it away, I would still be bound and sealed within it until the day the hand of death takes you, such is the power of my oath."
"Sorry, sorry," he quickly said, hands, which were occupied by a pan and a spatula respectively, extended in a placating manner, his brow invisibly sweating. Anzu was, in his opinion, more dangerous than he had originally thought, especially when she was angered or offended. Not only was she of Dragon-Kind, a species known for their power and their pride, but she was also female, a gender that, in his experience, was both mercurial and unpredictable in their temperament.
It made for a scary combination for any recipients of her ire.
"See that you are," the dragoness snorted in disdain, her Projection passing through the couch like a ghost and floating over to him as he turned back to quickly making breakfast, Western style, to float above the island bench that separated the kitchen from the dining room, "it would behoove you not to insult your guide and partner in this world in the future. The results may not be to your liking."
With those ominous words, the Projection of the Usurper Dragon flickered like a badly tuned TV before vanishing, her consciousness returning to the confines of the Sacred Gear that held her.
Shirou sighed to himself in annoyance. He really needed to learn to keep from putting his foot in his mouth, especially around females. The consequences were not worth living with.
Saber, also known as Arturia Pendragon, rightful heir to the British Throne and King of Knights, washed swiftly and economically, while also taking pleasure in the sinfully delightful feeling of hot water cleansing her body.
It was a guilty pleasure for her. In her original time, a time of when superstition and the sword ruled, such things as a shower did not exist, let alone a hot one. Bathing was typically rare, especially in the field where she spent most of her time, and even heated water from vast cauldrons over a fire never made bathing the pleasurable time it was to her now.
And the times of the Grail War for which she was summoned were even worse. Not only was Kiritsugu a cold man, but she was seen as a mere weapon, a tool, and did not have time for trivialities of such things. Even if she could have, the fact that she was summoned as a Servant would have prevented her dwelling in such pleasure.
Whenever she had been summoned, her spirit projected into the future through her contract with the World, the World have placed her into a Servant container, albeit one that was more real than that of the other Servants. Servants were, in essence, spiritual beings able to take corporeal form. Despite this, they were still spiritual and thus the physical world didn't react to them as it should.
As a Servant, she had always felt like her touch was muffled, as if feeling everything through a veil of gauze or silk, distant from this plane of existence.
With the reintegration of her soul to her body however...
It had been quite the shock for her to learn of this.
"How is this possible?" Arturia whispered in incredulity, disbelief running rampant across her visage, followed closely by shock, as she stared at the small Dragon standing before her. Beside her, Shirou, her Master- former Master- looked just as shocked as she did, but there was a gleam of hope there also, as if his dream come true was right in front of him, within reach.
It was a great shock to hear that she was now human once more, no longer under the contract with the World, no longer linked to the Throne, and able to live her life. It may not be what she had initially wanted, what she had fought for in the Grail Wars, a chance to relive her life in the past, to never have taken up Caliburn, but her experiences with Shirou had changed that, changed her.
It was an...interesting prospect to say the least.
And it had come about because of a Dragon that, if the smaller specimen was to be believed, possessed unrivalled power was interested and intrigued in her and Shirou both.
She wasn't sure what she should feel about that. On one hand, it seemed that she had a new lease on life, without the burdens of Kingship, a chance to live a real life, to be human again like she was before she had pulled the sword from the stone. The small Dragon, Anzu, had made it clear that whatever this Great Red had done was irreversible, at least to her knowledge. No chance to return to the world that she had been born, lived on and been fatally wounded on, no longer bound by the Contract she had foolishly made. What she had at this moment, her life, her body, her skills, were all that she had. It was up to her to make something of herself, to carve her own path without the benefit/curse of being a King.
On the other hand, this opportunity, this new chance, was a result of a meddling Dragon that no doubt wanted to stir the pot a little. Little bugs for it to observe as they scurried around, making waves wherever she and Shirou went, and that was without taking into account the changes that it had made to them. And that they were in a completely different world.
It was Merlin all over again. Damn that old man.
"Many are the Mysteries of the world," the small Dragon spoke with a slight grin, the human-like expression looking almost ridiculous on the face of the ancient Beast, "the Great Red is merely one of them...and the most unpredictable and powerful of them all."
Saber restrained herself from rolling her eyes. Of course their damned saviour had to have a few bricks short of a full load, be the joker in the deck.
This place felt like Camelot already. The old cambion really knew how to stir up trouble.
"What can you tell us?" Saber enquired bluntly, relaxing a little in slight weariness as she looked at the small draconic being. It was best to be bluntly honest in these types of situations, to make your stance clear and simple. The less misunderstandings, the better. "About this new world? About what has happened to us? Who are the ones that hold the power here? Their strengths and weaknesses? What does this Great Red want from us?"
The flow of questions seemed made the Dragon step back a bit, slightly disconcerted, not having expected the questions to come so fast and hard from the former King of the Britons.
"Saber," she heard Shirou say, his warm calloused hand gently grasping her armoured shoulder in order to calm her, the heat of his hand somehow going straight through the enchanted metal and touching her skin, making her want to shudder slightly in pleasure.
Dear Lord, there was something about his touch that seemed to set her aflame, to make heart beat just that little faster, pound that little bit harder as her skin flushed slightly.
Heaven's above, she had almost forgotten what it had meant to have a human body, to feel the surge of emotions in the blood that pumped through her veins. It was intense. It was invigorating.
It was a reminder of what her life had now become.
As she took a deep breath, trying to relax rather than be stressed, a rumbling chuckle was heard from the Dragon, her eyes more amused than ever.
"Quite the verbose and demanding little mortal, aren't you?" Anzu smirked, bearing her fangs in a draconic grin, "As expected of a Ruler, former or otherwise."
"Anzu-san," Shirou said respectfully, yet slightly reproachfully, "please..."
The dragoness sighed, slightly mournful, "Fine, fine," she grumbled, dipping her head, "ruin the first fun I have had in millennia, why don't you?"
The Usurper dragon, as she had called herself, coughed slightly, raising her neck high and laying a taloned paw over the once more revealed marking, as if she were swearing an oath or speaking of subjects with great sincerity and importance.
"Please, take a seat," she requested, gesturing to the grassy ground, "this will take quite some time."
Sensing no malice or deceit, Shirou calmly rested on the grass, gently pulling Saber down as well, resting against the large oak as they prepared to listen and learn about this new world from a Dragon.
Saber had to shake her head at the complete absurdity of the entire situation. It was unbelievable in her own experience.
The dragoness took a deep breath and began to recite the tale of the World.
"Let me begin at the Beginning, the very start, the primordial darkness from which everything was sprung..."
The tale told by the dragon proved to be of great interest to the dimensionally displaced duo.
Saber emerged from her thoughts, and her shower, and briskly began to towel off.
The revelations about this new world that Shirou and her had received were beyond belief.
The fact that God of the Bible, the Creator and the Almighty, was dead was a big one, but still only a drop in bucket compared to the rest of the bombardment of information.
Divine Spirits still walked the earth. Dragons and Beasts still thrived, to a point. Angels, Fallen and Devils. Gods and Demons of every stripe. Spirits. Artifacts powerful enough to kill Gods born into the hands of mortals, generation after generation.
It was as if the Age of the Gods still existed in this world.
That said, there were differences, major ones, between her home world and this one.
One of them being this Evil Piece Reincarnation attributed to the Devil Faction.
It flew in the face of everything she knew and was taught to her by the old pervert. Resurrection along with a complete change from one spiritual species to another? It gave her the shivers.
The fact that these Devils were, reputedly, not exactly as completely malevolent as they were depicted to be by the church didn't matter, it was still a scary thought. This Peerage system reminded her too much of a blend between magi familiars and the Servant system of the Grail Wars for her to be comfortable.
The thought of devils trawling through the masses of humanity and other beings, looking for the cream of the crop to convert into devils, those who have powerful Sacred Gears, powerful mages, elite warriors, beasts of power (even including Dragons), those with the blood of Heroes in their veins, officially in order to repopulate their decimated species.
To a King who was use to power plays and politics amongst her court, this smelled rotten to her.
Reading between the lines, there had to be more to it than simply resurrecting a being to serve them. There had to be controls, a way for the King devil to enforce their will on their peerage, to ensure loyalty to a point. That there were even cases of coercion and forceful conversion proved this.
One thing that had her very leery was that they only needed the true name, or a name the target bound themselves to, for the ritual to be successful, something that reminded her of the Grail Wars, where knowing the identity of a Servant allowed an adversary have an idea of the strengths and possible weaknesses of the Servant.
She firmly decided to keep her name, her true name, amongst only those she trusted, meaning only her and Shirou at this point, with the dragon Anzu as a possible one, if only because the reptilian Beast was bound to Shirou in a way that had her flummoxed and shocked, and already knew her name and history.
Annoying Great Red.
And hadn't the very idea of the mere existence of such a being sent shivers up her spine.
The Apocalypse Dragon. The Dragon of Dragons. The True Dragon.
All of these were the auspicious titles given to a being that towered over the very Gods themselves in power and might.
And he/it had taken an interest in her and Shirou.
It didn't give her much in the way of comfort.
Having finished drying herself off, she was quickly dressed in a set of clothing. A simple skirt, blouse and sweater combination that served her well, along with a pair of comfortable slippers to protect her feet from the cold floors of the apartment that she and Shirou now resided in.
Her hands brushed the old wooden walls, the worn wallpaper managing to stay on easily, as she stepped into the dining/kitchenette, the aroma of fresh cooked eggs, scrambled, with two slices of toast and heated slices of ham, tickling her nostrils.
The apartment had been a very lucky find for them, especially in the city they currently lived. Relatively cheap, at least in comparison to other apartments, and had come fully furnished, which had been an absolute blessing considering their financial constraints when they had first appeared in this world, and with basic appliances.
It had been a pain to get ahold of, their lack of identification and other things creating a large road block for them both to get around, but they had managed to do it with the rudimentary skills Shirou had in hypnotism, which was aided by the Gear Anzu resided in, thanking the Heavens above that Kiritsugu had insisted on him learning English as well as he could all the while. It had certainly paid off.
Thankfully, Shirou managed to find a link to the local Underground, the world of criminals and thieves, compliments of the rare frank and in-depth discussions he had had Taiga in the past about the Yakuza, shortly after so as to obtain proper false identification and documents so as to firmly establish themselves as real citizens of the United Kingdom and back up the hypnosis.
There had been a very good reason that the place they had entered this world seemed so familiar.
It was this dimension's analogue of Camlann, where she had fallen. The oak had been the one she had rested under, dying, in her home world. She couldn't help but shiver at the thought and yet be drawn to that spot again and again.
She put aside those morbid thoughts with a shake of her head, emerald eyes alighting on the delicious repast her lover had laid out for breakfast, despite the fact it was closer to midnight than dawn or morning.
Shirou was already eating, quickly and neatly devouring his serve of the meal at a fast pace. He barely spared enough time to nod with warm eyes at her before focusing back on his meal. Saber didn't mind what would have been considered rudeness in another time and place, she knew why he did it and agreed with his actions.
Business, or rather work, before pleasure.
She returned the nod with a wordless thanks and devoured her own share, the food and utensils more familiar to her than what had been served in Fuyuki.
This was a frequent occurrence in the apartment for the past fortnight, one that Saber took a unique pleasure in. The scenario of a couple sharing a meal before each of them parted ways for the day was something that she had never experienced as a King.
As she was no longer a King, nor would she take up that mantle again if she could help it, she was able to experience it, to dwell amongst those she had once ruled over, to see the life through their eyes.
She found that she liked this simple life. She had never been overly fond of the extravagancies of her court and castle all those years ago, but it had been expected of her and thus she had fulfilled the role of King as best as she could.
With this new lease on life and a second chance...
She wasn't going to waste it.
She glanced over at the living room portion of the central area of the apartment, in particular a stand that rested up against the wall, looking at what rested upon it with a wary eye. The soft misty silver light given off by the scabbard caressed her features, even in the gloom of the dark of the morning, it's form seeming to break up, shift and shimmer like the morning mists on the moors, shortening and extending it's length, from anything between a foot and three feet, with great frequency.
Above that, the hilt of the blade contained within that spectral scabbard could be seen. A simple rounded pommel, a set of scarlet leather strips wrapped around the slightly curved hilt, the leather seemingly scaled in the manner typical of some reptilian species, and a simple rounded cross guard. There seemed to nothing special about it, almost completely utilitarian and practical.
Saber, however, knew better than to judge a book by it's cover.
A gift they might have been, much like her own sword and sheath, but she knew not for what purposes these ones were crafted and forged. Where her own gifts were made for Glory and Peace, to bring Order in a world filled with Chaos and Strife, these were far different in nature and yet they would no doubt be used for the same reasons as her own blade had been, in time, though they would perhaps be used in a more focused manner.
Yes, Saber knew that this idyllic existence that she and Shirou currently had was only temporary and would undoubtedly come to an end in time. But until then, she would enjoy this peace and anonymity they currently had, allow herself to feel truly human for the first time in so long.
For when it ended, in what ever manner it did, probably involving either Devils or mages, she had no doubt that this world would be on the edge of sword.
Shirou swiftly washed up his plate, laying it on the sink to clean properly later that day. His breakfast was finished and now it was time to go to work.
He gave Saber a quick hug in farewell before he left, dressed and ready to work his day away, picking up a set of keys and a small backpack near the door to the apartment, before exiting.
It was something that reminded him of other families, seeing other members safely of to work. The fact that he did this with Saber, could do it with Saber, was something that he never would have imagined could happen.
His ideal of being a 'Super Hero', an ally of Justice, had been tarnished by the events of the Grail War and the dream cycle with Saber, enough that he began to respect and welcome the simpler things in life.
The fact that he had somehow obtained the entirety of the memories of Archer also contributed to this.
He grimaced slightly in remembrance as he swiftly descended the corner stairwell of the apartment building, his boots ringing hollowly in the cold and still air of it, easily able to see where he went with the fluorescent lighting.
They had been so raw, so primal. Scenes of slaughter and destruction, of blood and gore. Burning citadels and countries. Islands becoming wastelands. Slain children and monsters in the same pile of corpses.
All of these caused by someone who could have been him. All because of a single oath in order to save a hundred lives.
There was no comfort, no joy, to be found in those memories. Just endless fields of blood, pain and death, the battlefield at it's worst. EMIYA's dream and desire twisted on itself in the worst possible fashion, a mockery of what it meant to be a hero.
He still woke up at nights, sweating and panting, as he relived those scenes, those horror filled glimpses of humanity's darker nature, in his dreams and nightmares.
When he realised the source of the nightmares, the reason they happened, he had made an oath to himself. To never become that man, become what many others would call a monster, known as EMIYA. He would find another way. A way without the endless slaughter of victim and villain alike.
In his heart of hearts, where the hammer met the anvil in a shower of sparks, he knew he would not be able to escape the battlefield. As a Sword Incarnate, he would be drawn to battle and conflict like a magnet. It was only a matter of time.
It would be up to him how he fought and who he fought however.
And he would do it with skills and abilities of himself and those inherited from EMIYA. Maybe in this new world he could somehow give the counter Guardian some peace, knowing that his skills would most definitely save lives instead of taking them.
Emerging from the entrance hall of the apartment block, he drew in a chilly breath, taking the icy night air into his lungs as he stepped onto the footpath, glancing at the time on his watch laden wrist, focusing more on the present than the ghastly
Two Thirty. Perfect. He had enough time.
He put aside thoughts on the future battles that awaited him, his Origin assured that and the gifts from the Great Red would only draw them closer, and focused for a moment, drawing on the arcane power he wielded as a magus.
The pistol appeared in his mind, the hammer cocked back. Then it fired.
His body surged with prana as his circuits came to life, then it became saturated with prana, the mystical energy surging through his veins to the beat of a spiritual heart as the opening of his circuits triggered a recent addition to his body.
The Usurper Dragon had told him of the various changes the Great Red had made to him, to give the ability to fight on a relatively even playing field with the various supernatural entires in this world, who's physical capability was far above that of the average human, even amongst the weakest of them like Low Devils and two winged Angels and Fallen.
That hadn't really phased him, it had been true in his home world as well and there were more than a few successful monster hunting groups composed of humans there, using specialised weaponry, skill and planning to overcome the monsters' advantage of raw power, physical and magical.
EMIYA had been an excellent example of this. As Archer, his stats had only surpassed that of Assassin and Caster in physical capability, and those two classes were the weakest in physical combat. And yet, through use of those three key elements, he had been able to challenge the likes of Lancer and the overpowered game breaker Berserker.
That said, the fact that the Great Red did these modifications implied something that he really didn't want to have to think about.
Though he thought giving him a Magical Core similar to Saber, albeit from the Great Red himself rather than the Welsh Dragon Saber had, was a bit overkill.
Then again, he was a Dragon. The godly entity probably didn't even know the meaning of the word. The Dragon of Dragons was like an elephant among ants. His power able to crush just about anything out of existence with a mere thought. With that much power, what the Dragon had given him was not even a drop in the bucket for him.
It wouldn't stop him from using it though.
His own Magical Core pounded like a second heart, synching with his own physical one, as his body enhanced itself. Muscles became strong enough to cleave stone, his skin more than resilient enough to deflect bullets, his senses sharper than the predators of the land and sea and skies.
The wonders of Reinforcement when used on one's own self, especially when it was boosted by an already enhanced body.
He crouched slightly, his boots digging into the pavement as his amber eyes were now fixed on something, intent burning in them as his whole body tensed.
It took him ten minutes yesterday to run to work. Let's see if he couldn't shave a little more time off of that.
Taking a step forward, he launched himself from the pavement into a full on sprint, the staccato beat of his boots meeting the footpath as he mentally traced and followed the now familiar route to his workplace.
It wouldn't do for the cafe's star chef to be late, after all.
"I hate the cold," the male voice of Gaghiel muttered into the icy air, his arms wrapping a thick, woollen, ankle length trenchcoat in a desperate attempt to stay warm in the cold English winter night, his body shivering even through the layers of other clothes he wore.
His pale face glared his hate down at the street far below as he balanced, perched, on the lip of the building's tall roof. He really wished he was back in the nice balmy slice of the Underworld that the Fallen Angels called home. It would be much better than this frozen slice of hell on earth. He was almost certain that even Cocytus would be warmer than London was currently.
Even with them hidden, he could feel the icy night air slowly begin to freeze all his flight feathers into ice cubes.
And he had to stay out in it until dawn.
He scowled heavily, muttering imaginative curses under his breath towards his higher ups. Paranoid bastards, the lot of them! Putting him in this city just because there had been circumstantial evidence that Excalibur had been reforged into it's original state before it had been broken during the Great War.
He called bullshit!
He saw the strike that had split the sword into pieces, felt the backlash of raw Holy power as it erased every Devil within a half a mile and sent every Angel, a Fallen or not, within said range tumbling as it shattered. He didn't know if even the Holy Father, if he was still alive, could have put it back together.
If the one who created it couldn't do it, then Michael and the rest of those air-brained fools didn't have a hope.
Still, Gaghiel frowned heavily in the darkness, he couldn't entirely blame the higher ups for their caution.
Contrary to belief, the Battle of Camlann, where Arthur of Camelot had fallen and Mordred was slain, heralding the fall of the hard won and laboriously crafted kingdom, wasn't just a battle of Men. Nor was Arthur just a blessed knight and King. England had been more than just a Kingdom or a country, it had been the base of Heaven's plans, the root from which the Tree of Life would grow as Camelot set an example of a Utopian society.
That field of battle had involved all three Factions. The Fallen had aligned with the Devils for a time with Mordred, each Faction having their own agenda, and Heaven had backed their Champion, Arthur, when they had seen the Fallen and Devils amongst Mordred's army.
It had been one Hell of a battle.
Arthur had been a powerful force for Heaven, despite his human frailness. Where lesser men would buckle, where Angels would falter, he stood strong and powerful, wading into the thick of the clash. Fallen and Devil and Human alike had been laid low by Excalibur, the Strongest of the Four Holy Swords. The golden sword cut a swathe through the battlefield, staining the ground red with his foe's blood.
Right up until he ran into Armoni.
Armoni, or Armaros, was one of the highest ranked Fallen, with ten wings. He was one of the leaders, the field commanders, of the Grigori and one of their strongest warriors aside from The Governor, Baraquiel and Shemhazai.
Gaghiel still remembered the tribal tattooed skin of the warrior, making him look more devilish and evil than even one of the Satans.
The Fallen had cut his own swathe through the furor, his favoured weapons being a pair of Light Scimitars, his form whirling like a black wind, a dervish of destruction, through Angel and Man, as he advanced to stand before the King of Camelot.
Still an Angel of Heaven back then, Gaghiel couldn't help but quiver in fear. The killing intent that poured off the two of them had many of the weaker beings in both armies on their knees. It had taken just about all the Guardian of the Sixth Heaven had to keep his feet. The two armies were frozen, petrified in their tracks as the spiritual weight of their desire to kill one another fell on them like the burden of Atlas.
Then the two had clashed.
Sparks of light were thrown across the battlefield, singing and burning anything they touched, as the weapons met, each clash sounding like a thousand thunders, the Light scimitars somehow managing to hold Excalibur at bay, a testament to Armoni's own strength.
No one was stupid enough to get close to the battle, even Mordred, craven coward that he had been, knowing that they could very well have fallen to even their ally's own blade, so deeply focused were the two on each other.
It was a battle that still, even now, stirred the beast of battle with Gaghiel's breast. The clash of warriors true, each of them masters of their own weapons. Armoni blurred with each movement, never staying still, his form like that of a ghost's as he slashed and dodged, spinning and twisting, his blood red blades hungry to drink the blood of their wielder's adversary, showcasing his own physical skills, showing himself to be the clearly faster, more agile, more wild and primal of the two. The bloodthirsty smirk on his face making men tremble.
Arthur, by contrast, was more stately, more stalwart. Wielding his broadsword, he was clearly the slower of the two, his armour weighing him down. But his reflexes more than made up for it, parrying each and every strike, defending himself with a skill unknown amongst even the best of each Faction's champions. It was his strength, though, that allowed him to match the Fallen Champion, able to shove away the strongest of Armoni's blows.
It was a battle of a tiger and a bull. One wild and fanged, moving swiftly and striking like lightning with it's claws. The other absorbing the strikes and knocking the adversary away, the blows stronger and more powerful.
It would all come down to who made the first mistake.
In a surprising event, it had been Arthur who had faltered, his humanity catching up with him, showing a slight fatigue, making him a little slower to recover. His armoured foot slipped on the wet grass, making him stumble.
Armoni had gleefully taken advantage of the slip up.
Where as before his Light-crafted swords were only able to lightly scratch the King's armour, the Fallen abandoned his scimitars, crafting a newer, stronger blade, pouring his power into it until the battlefield was bathed in it's crimson light. Rough and unpolished, the light-blade looked more like a crackling mass of crimson lightning, energy writhing off of it.
A wild grin in his face, he slashed it down on his doomed foe, even as the King held the then golden glowing form of Excalibur, making them clash.
The world seemed to freeze, everything going still, as those two swords met and struggled. That moment seemed to last an eternity, the wind stopped blowing, the carrion crows halted in mid-wingbeat, the world focused on a single event to the exclusion of all else.
Then, to Gaghiel's disbelief, Excalibur, the Strongest Holy Sword, began to crack and splinter, metallic pops and creaks heard throughout the battlefield. Gaghiel only had time to see the shocked faces of both opponents before the blade, pushed to it's limits, simply shattered.
And the world had exploded into golden light, the steely death cry of the Holy Father's masterwork ringing out. The sheer force of the explosion of Holy Power had knocked him out, ending his involvement in the Battle of Camlann.
When he came to in the Healing Halls in Heaven, it was to find out that Camelot had fallen, Arthur, who had somehow managed to survive the blast of power from Excalibur, was dead, mortally wounded by his own son, Mordred, who had fallen to his father's spear. Of Armoni, only ashes were found, his existence destroyed by the vengeful Excalibur.
Heaven had lost the day, despite making the Fallen and Devils pay a dear price, and Britain once more descended into chaos and barbarism.
It had been the first stone that had set him, the Roaring Beast of God, the Guardian of the Sixth Heaven, on the path of the Fallen.
And now it seemed that Excalibur, the True Excalibur, had supposedly been reforged, resurrected from the ashes of the past, and was detected to be somewhere in the British Isles a mere month ago. More recent reports had placed it somewhere in London.
Listening posts near Heaven had detected a lot of traffic, communication and otherwise, going back and forth between there and Earth. There were also indications of a build up of forces, the Army of Heaven that he had once been a member of mobilising once more.
Something had also seemed to have stirred up the Devils, whose own forces were also becoming more combat ready. More frequent patrols along the borders and more Devils going to earth as well. These events also had the more militant of the Grigori calling to mobilise their own forces, saying that there may be a secret treaty between the two Factions aimed for the heart of the Grigori, and to strike them first. Kokabiel was particularly vociferous in his opinions, and they were beginning to get some weight among the younger lot, those who had not fought in the Great War and seen it's horrors.
It was a tense time amongst the Factions at this moment. A single spark or scuffle could have the entire powder keg of a situation blow up rather horribly and kick start the Great War anew.
To quote one of his more poetic comrade in arms, 'the future balanced on the edge of a sword.'
Hence why he was perching on a roof in the cold like a snow covered gargoyle at Two Thirty in the morning.
Father above but he hated this! Couldn't the sword have shown up somewhere a bit warmer? The Bahamas were lovely this time of year. Sun, surf and sand abound, no one would ever think of looking for Excalibur there.
Instead he was now freezing his balls off in a London winter.
He peered down at the street again, his sharp eyes seeing what would normally be hidden from view in the darkness. He had been sensing something in this little shit 'burb of London for the last week, something that reminded him of the pure Light he had once wielded long ago. That was an oddity in itself.
While the Church, and thus Heaven, had a decent presence in Britain, even housing one of the Seven Excaliburs in the country, the real movers and shakers of this place were the Magicians, and by association the Devils. Angels rarely visited the country as a result.
So the fact that something, or someone, with a large amount of Light was roaming around was more than a bit odd.
He frowned harder, his lips a white slash on his face and his eyes narrowed. He could feel something now, a tremor on the spiritual spectrum, something that was moving swiftly. He extended his senses, trying get a feel for it.
His eyebrows almost immediately shot for his hairline. Holy Father! His eyes were wide in shock. The presence was strong, impressively so, but it wasn't something he hadn't encountered before and carried the a subtle hint in it that every Fallen knew that screamed of it possessing a Sacred Gear of some kind, though it was a bit off. The feel of the presence though...that was a bit different.
It was definitely what he had been feeling for a while, the presence saturated in the majesty of pure Light. But the scary thing was that he wasn't emitting the Light, it merely clung to him like a cloak.
This, in turn, meant that this presence wasn't of the Light itself, but had been in the presence of a Holy Artefact of immense power. Extensively.
There were only a few artefacts of such a nature that he knew of, most of them accounted for and residing in the hands of Heaven or had been destroyed in one fashion or another over the centuries of the Holy Father's death.
Suddenly, the possibility that Excalibur had been remade wasn't looking too far fetched.
"Shit," he swore, summing up his situation. It was starting to look like the paranoid bastards-that-be were right. It was lucky that he had been the first to find this presence, his tracking and sensing abilities were one of the reasons that he had be sent on this mission, and not one of the other Factions.
He would have to report in to the Institute as soon as possible.
He focused back on the street, looking at the source of the presence as it rounded a corner a few blocks up, bringing it into his direct line of sight, the distance nothing for his eyes.
At least, he would report after he observed the presence. Knowledge is Power and all that rot.
He watched as the presence, an older teen with red hair and amber eyes, who was currently moving down the street at speeds that would impress the Devil Faction's Knights.
Yes, he would observe this boy for the day and follow him home. Hopefully, his surveillance would be able to lead him to the possible location of the Artefact the boy was exposed to. Time was of the essence also, the other Factions no doubt having their own sniffer hounds in their ranks prowling around the area.
The Light that draped over the boy wasn't exactly the most subtle. It was only the sheer size of London that had made it initially difficult for Gaghiel to find this boy.
If it was Excalibur that the boy was exposed to...
Gaghiel sighed heavily as he stretched out his wings, readying them to fly and follow the speeding kid.
Without another word, he leapt and flapped his wings, soaring over London's cityscape.
Here's hoping this entire situation doesn't become a clusterfuck of epic proportions.
Lustrous purple hair, so dark that it was verging on black, framed a face of feminine perfection as the face's lips pursed in a small pout.
"Mooooh!" The lady whined, "I was too late!"
The woman huffed in annoyance, kicking her feet in the air as she sat on the edge of building's roof, uncaring of the cold night and the wet snow that seeped through her pants and other clothes.
She had dealt with colder temperatures.
"Stupid Angels," she moaned, "always interrupting my fun."
Her crimson eyes glared childishly at the black wings of the Fallen Angel as it tracked her new choice of 'playmate'. Such durable specimens, if her experienced eyes were any judge, were so hard to come by nowadays. The humans of this era were so frail, so weak. It only took her an hour to break them, and that was if she was going easy on them.
She grunted in an unladylike manner. A pity the damned crow had spotted the toy, she could have had such fun!
Still, she had a face to put to the source of power she had sensed. She would be able to find and scry him anytime she wanted now. She would have another chance to play with the toy. Perhaps another day, when the crow wasn't flapping his wings like the carrion bird he was.
'Soon,' she thought, 'soon.'
A flash of power and the lady was gone, as if she had never been.
Alright, hope you guys liked this chapter. Not much action I know, but I am just setting the wheels in motion. Next chapter will have a nice brawl for all you fight lovers out there.
Also, the next chapter will reveal Shirou's Gear and the gift he received from the Great Red. I know many of you think that I might have gone overkill when I decided to let Great Red do the 'all of the above' option in regards to giving Shirou an edge but let's all just agree to disagree, yeah?
As always, Please leave a review. They would be much appreciated.