Chapter 6

When Medea saw him, she almost could not believe it. He was just as she remembered. A giant amongst mortal men. Stronger and more valiant by far than any in all of history. His skin was iron. His legs, sturdy oaks. His arms, more powerful than lions.

It was he, her old friend. An Argonaut. The Legend. The Son of Zeus. Greatest of all heroes: Heracles.

But he was not exactly as she remembered him. His eyes did not shine with martial wisdom and courage. They burned, instead, with the flames of madness. There was not a trace of the kindness that had granted her shelter when she had fled to Thebes left inside of him. Who he was now was not who he was then.


They were doomed.

Rin felt alone.

That was not to say that she felt lonely. Just that as the only human in this battlefield of monsters, she could not help but to feel like the odd one out. If anyone died this day, chances were good that she would be the first to go.

Standing a distance away from them was the hooded man, Caster, and Assassin. They were watching both them and the new Servant, who in turn were doing the same. On the surface, it was a classic three-way stalemate. But in truth, it was Rin who was at the disadvantage.

Unlike the others, she was in danger of losing Saber at any moment. She had no idea why Berserker's Master had taken Shirou away, nor did she know how long she intended to keep him alive. But the longer the fight dragged on, the more likely he would be killed. When that happened, Saber would quickly return to the Throne of Heroes.

Therefore, unlike the others, whose goals were simply the annihilation of their enemies, Rin worked furiously in her mind on how to best escape from their current predicament. She could not be the first to move. In such a situation, it was the most tactically unsound thing to do, as it would create a window of opportunity for the other two to lay her low. Yet, neither could she afford to delay much longer.

Fortunately, one of her enemies was Berserker, and they were not a class well reputed for their intellect. The giant roared wordlessly and attacked.

Unfortunately, it was them that he went for first.

Saber charged forward to meet Berserker in melee combat, while Archer moved back to support her from afar. Rin kept an eye on the hooded man's group. They had not moved to attack, but neither had they fled. Like vultures, they simply watched and waited.

Within her pocket, Rin's hand played with a handful of jewels. Most were charged specific spells. Five were merely loaded with raw mana.

Rin's hand stilled. Now was not the time to use them.

For all her disadvantage in size and strength, Saber was doing an excellent job in fending off Berserker. Their speed was roughly equal, but the smaller size of the Servant of the Sword gave her greater agility. She made full use of it to dodge each of the overbearing monster's sword strokes by the barest of threads. Even more admirably, she was doing it with minimal assistance from Archer, whose arrows could not penetrate the giant's hide.

However, fending off was not the same as winning. Shirou's life aside, Rin did not know how much longer the vultures would be content to remain silent.

"Dammit all," Rin muttered. She drew forth all five loaded gems and threw them into the air. Whether or not now was the right time no longer mattered. She would forcibly make her own opportunity.

The multicolored jewels exploded into a shining rainfall. Rin snapped her fingers and the rain turned to a burning hell that swallowed everything.

"Saber!" Rin called out, while Archer scooped her up in his arms.

The knight appeared from the flames, completely unscathed; such was the strength of the resistance of her class. But the fire of the prodigy magus was not hot enough to stop Berserker. He merely burned with even greater anger, as he cut off their path of retreat.

Saber moved forward again, but the giant knocked her aside with a powerful backhand. He raised his stone axe-sword then to crush both Rin and Archer at once, but was stopped when dozens of Caster's bone warriors appeared from shadows and swarmed him. The slightest passing of Berserker's hand was enough to rip the skeletons apart, but for each that were destroyed, two more rose up to take their place. If nothing else, the distraction was enough for Rin and Archer to escape back a safer distance.

"You're helping us?" Rin couldn't help but ask incredulously at Caster and her Master, as Archer set her down. "Why?"

It was Caster that answered for them.

"Unfortunate as it is," she said, "we do not have the means to defeat him by ourselves. This is the best, and only, option. For all of us."

"An alliance, then?"

"A temporary cessation of hostilities."

"Agreed," said Rin, quickly. "Do you have a plan?"

"Yes," said Caster. "If your lot can distract him long enough."

"Why am I not surprised that you give us the more dangerous task?" Rin said acerbically.

Caster spread her arm wide and smiled. "If you have some means at your disposal that can accomplish the same task, then, by all means, use it."

"Archer?" Rin looked to her Servant hopefully. She was disappointed when he shook his head.

"Let's go with their strategy, whatever it is, for now," he said.

"Fine," groused Rin. "But I'm keeping my eyes on you, Witch."

"Then watch closely and learn, third-rate," Caster replied scathingly. "And bear witness to the difference between you and I."

She would never admit it to anyone, but Rin did, in fact, learn from what came next. The hooded man's arm, transformed into a giant blade, became clad in violet flames. While that alone was visually impressive, the true nature of the magic Caster was weaving was far more amazing.

Reinforcement was a basic spell every apprentice magus learned it as one point or another, though there were few that took it to a practical level. The foundation of the art lay in pouring one's mana into the gaps of an object's design in order to empower it, somewhat akin to using concrete to smooth over a pothole ridden street.

What Caster was doing spat on that logic.

She was making the blade-arm better, stronger, more elegantly designed so that it could better accommodate her own mana. Rather than filling in potholes, she was remaking the street entirely. And she was doing it on a scale so fine, so precise, that Rin had never even dreamed that level of skill was even possible.

Was this what it meant to be a magus from the Age of the Gods?

What made it still all the more incredible was that she was not doing this to herself. She was reinforcing another person – a nearly impossible task for most anyone else in the modern age.

Perhaps, Rin theorized, Caster's actions was made possible by the uniquely malleable physique of her Master. Something as rigid as a human would break from such radical changes, but it made sense that a body that already changed so freely of its own accord could withstand the alterations.

Rin heard a noise. Her head whipped back to Berserker, who had been engaging the other Servants alone. In one hand, he held Assassin by an arm bent at an entirely wrong angle. The samurai's body was broken and beaten and very, very still. By the grimace on Caster's face, Rin knew that his time was at its end.

Assassin disappeared in a burst of blue motes of mana, leaving only two more walls in front of the giant.

"Are you still not ready?" Rin asked impatiently.

"How about, instead of standing around, you go assist your Servant and stop distracting me?" Caster snapped back.

"I thought I was supposed to watch and learn from you, sensei."

Caster clicked her tongue in annoyance

"You are a rude little girl," she said. "Did you know that?"

"Oh, please," Rin rolled her eyes. "The last person I want to hear that from is you, hag."

Caster glared at her. "I do believe I've come to hate you."

"What a coincidence," Rin smiled back frostily. "So have I."

After one last spiteful look, Caster turned her attention to Berserker. Her Master's arm was now so fully soaked in her magic that Rin could no longer see the blade beneath the flames. He jumped into the air, soaring, as Caster turned her craft to restraining Berserker.

Reluctantly, Rin joined her. She threw several of her jewels at the rampaging giant. Together, the two maguses brought the concrete pavement alive and created pillars of ice and raw mana in order to bind the Servant of Madness for even just a few seconds, and a few seconds was all Rin feared that they had. Despite their combined strength, Berserker ripped the stone chains, shattered the icy cage, and destroyed the magic circles with ease.

But they had succeeded. From above, the hooded man dove down on the giant. His fire-clad blade-arm sliced through Berserker like soft clay, splitting him open all the way from shoulder to hip. With a wet, dying rasp, the enormous Servant fell to his knees, head bowed and with the light gone from his eyes as blood pooled beneath him.

Rin nearly let out a sigh of relief. She only refrained because with their common foe gone, she no longer knew how Caster and her Master would react. She prayed that they would leave. They did not have time to fight them.

Caster did not turn on her. She stared intently at Berserker's corpse. Rin followed her gaze. Her eyes widened. She saw white smoke curling up and out of the giant's open body. His split flesh stitched back together, mending itself. When it was whole, the light of madness returned once more into the Servant's eyes.

"Oh, no," breathed Rin.

"▂▂▃▃▄▄▅▅" the Servant roared as it got back to its feet.

Muttering quiet profanities, Caster once more threw her spells upon Berserker, holding him down as her Master jumped and once more descended upon him. Yet, despite their proven effectiveness, this time, the reinforced blade-arm could not leave even a scratch upon the giant's skin.

Berserker grabbed the hooded man by the upper body and legs. Then he pulled outward, and blood and gore splattered all over him. He dropped the two halves of the Master and they landed on the ground with a wet thunk.

"Master!" screamed Caster.

Beams of light barraged Berserker, forcing his attention to her as a pair of skeletal warriors emerged to quietly drag her Master's body parts away. Screaming, howling, making its fury known, Berserker barreled down the street towards Caster. Rin shrieked and threw herself to the side, lest she be run over as collateral damage. Archer grabbed her, and then quickly jumped away onto a nearby rooftop.

At the last second, Caster vanished. She reappeared where her familiars had collected her Master. She scooped him up in her arms, and together they retreated from the battlefield, disappearing to a place far removed from Rin's senses.

Confused, Berserker looked around dumbly for its prey. In its moment of inattention, Rin and Archer and Saber silently, too, made good on their escape.

Shirou woke up staring at the canopy of a king-sized bed. It was soft, incredibly so. So soft that he felt as though he was sinking into a cloud. But this was not his bed. He had never slept on this kind of bed before. He wondered where he was.

The memories began to return to him then. They slipped and oozed into the crevasses of his tired mind. The battle at the school. The hooded Master and the two Servants. His own grave injury. And Rin.

Wait. Where was Rin?

Shirou tried to sit up, but found that he could not. He tried to move his hand, but that too was not allowed to him. There were no ropes or chains binding him, yet all he could do was breath and blink and look at the little girl with pale skin and hair whiter than snow that had entered the room and was staring at him from the bedside. She smiled at him.

"Hello, Shirou," she said. "Let's talk about Kiritsugu."